Is it really a dance?

It’s been over a year since I wrote a post and over five years since my idealistic launch into creating this blog. I had visions of clearing the clutter out of my room and my life, hopefully within a year. I just had no idea how much of the clutter was in my own mind and thoughts.

This evening, after the most recent kerfluffle with an unhappy housemate, I thought of the often quoted image of taking two steps forward and one step back. I noticed that this is the natural rhythm one finds in a dance and wondered, does my recovery and growth need to follow a similar rhythm? Do I always needs to take one or more steps “back” after a number of steps “forward”? Is it a requirement of growth and becoming the person God invites me to be to stumble along the way when striving to become a more gracious person?

Sometimes it feels that way.

I have often experienced a sort of upheaval after making a lot of progress in my journey and wondered if it is a necessary part of the recovery process. A necessary part of growing into the person I want to become. Tonight this image of dancing suddenly seems like a very helpful and appropriate one for this journey. I have experienced what feels like more than one step back after making great strides toward better attitudes, more loving perceptions of those around me and other shifts in my thinking. What is clearer to me, in this moment, is that those seemingly backward steps are actually opportunities to recognize my progress and to see where I no longer wish to be.

In what was a surprising discovery to me recently, I realized that something that has bothered me – a lot – in the two and a half years I’ve lived in this house, with these housemates, may actually be a great gift. Namely, their seemingly complete inability to properly clean up after themselves in the kitchen. (By properly, I mean actually cleaning up, as opposed to ignoring the mess or simply smearing around the spills and leaving dishes and pans with bits of dried food and grease on them. I know. I know. I’m asking a lot…) So this has been an issue for me for some time – and still bothers me – but now I see in it the gift it holds, if I’m willing to receive it.

When I was married to my son’s father, he wouldn’t roll out of bed until mid to late morning, when I was onto other tasks. What could have been a beautiful bed in our room looked perpetually messy, thus making the entire bedroom look messy. (Especially since the bed practically filled the small room.) Ever since we parted ways, I have truly enjoyed being able to make my bed first thing, every morning, and delighted in the way the whole room looks instantly neater, no matter now not-so-neat it is. I’ve finally come to realize that whenever I may be fortunate enough to move into my own place, or even simply to a place with more conscientious housemates, I will likely take joy in being able to have a clean kitchen on a daily basis and become much better at cleaning up after myself because of the ongoing challenges in my present situation.

My intention for this year has been to become more loving, and I have made progress. Now, when I stumble and find myself inwardly raging at my housemates, I hope I can remind myself that it’s merely a step back, as in a dance, that each time I change direction, I’m also given the opportunity to see things from a new perspective. That new perspective, as was the case this evening, can help me to again move forward on the dance floor appreciating that “backward” step, buoyed by the knowledge that it’s part of the dance, part of the process, part of the ever-expanding journey of recovery.

I hope you’re learning to dance as well.

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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. 🙂

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. 😉

2 Days – Holding Still for the Chocolate Pot (Sun – Mar 10)

It’s hard to believe it has already been almost 60 days since I started another journey within the journey. There has been so much going on – most of it an inner journey of discovery and letting go of barriers I hadn’t even realized were there.

What, you may ask, is the “Chocolate Pot”? I’ve explained where the term arose for me in a tab now at the top of this page. The short version is that the “chocolate pot” is a delicious and wonderful place to be – and that’s where I’ve landed!HPIM0796

After months of being challenged on a daily basis to let go and let things unfold, I went through a crisis moment. Actually, it was more like a crisis day with a bleed through to a couple of days preceding and following that one incredibly rough day. I wrote about it in my last post. It wasn’t long before I had my 60th birthday, which may have contributed to the intensity of it all. For some reason, “60” was a significant birthday for me. In fact, it feels like 60 is a significant year for me – and it’s barely begun!

Whatever the basis for my fears around finding a place to live, ultimately I had to hold still, to let go and let God do the work that only God can do. And amazingly enough, that opened the door. A little more than two weeks ago, someone responded to my online ad looking for a place to live. He said he liked what I said in my ad and sent me the link to his ad. A couple of phone calls and a few text messages later and I came to see the place. It was a bit farther away from both my places of work than I’d hoped, but I knew within the first few moments that I would enjoy having him as a housemate.

It's how I feel!

It’s how I feel!

We talked for half an hour to an hour. He showed me all around the house, including the garage and the back yard area, and told me about himself, his partner, and the woman who rents the third bedroom from them. The house was lovely and clean and full of the little amenities that most of us take for granted until we no longer have them. In fact, I’m appreciating those amenities on a daily basis. It was a delight and a joy, for example, to be able to make a sandwich simply because the refrigerator (which is one of two and practically all mine!) is only a couple of feet from the beautiful granite counter top. Instead of having to go outside to a dingy little garage, get my sandwich fixings out of the tiny fridge, go back inside the house, make my sandwich in a cluttered and often not-too-clean kitchen, then return all the fixings to the tiny fridge in the dingy garage, I now have the luxury of simply opening a refrigerator door, grabbing what I need, turning around and placing it on the counter to prepare my food. Have you ever stopped to appreciate such a delightful convenience? I take very little for granted these days. It’s one of the gifts of the rough road.

The real “chocolate pot” for me, though, is in the combination of both lovely home and lovely roommates. The Asian couple who owns the place (two gay men) have made me feel comfortable and welcome. In fact, Tony (the housemate I met when I saw the place) greeted me with “Welcome!” and gave me a hug when I arrived with my first load of things to move in last weekend. What a wonderful beginning!

It *does* feel serene...

It *does* feel serene…

I had fun with the possibilities before coming to see the place, drawing on my (positive) stereotypical images of gay men and Buddhists. I posted on my social media site: ‘Two gay men! Three Buddhists! You know what that means? The house will not only be beautiful, it will be spotless! And it will be like a year-round Serenity Retreat!’ The funny thing is, the house is beautiful and clean, if not quite spotless. And our schedules are so different, we each can enjoy quiet time in the house alone, so serenity is easily accessible on a daily basis.

I have no illusions that my new home (love that it feels like a home) will be an endlessly serene and perfectly harmonious experience. What I do know, that I didn’t know just a short time ago, is that I can choose how I want to respond to anything that isn’t quite as I’d prefer. I can communicate about it, if it’s something that can be changed or negotiated. I can let it go if it’s not very changeable. Even my commute-times, one of which is on a very congested freeway that takes significantly longer to get to work now, provides an opportunity to let go and simply enjoy the time for reflection.

Yesterday, I met with my sponsor. As I was sharing about the recent move, about how I was managing things financially, and about how I have been experiencing the transition, she remarked at the difference she sees in me. As she put it, I’m a completely different person than I was not that long ago. I knew what she meant. Even two months ago, I would not have been ready for this wonderful new place to live.

HPIM0853

So nice to have new friends!

Holding still..So worth it! 🙂

59 Days: It’s a start

I don’t know if I’ll be up for posting every day or not, but I’d like to give it a shot. Tonight I’m too tired to write much, but I want to be able to track my progress and this is a good place to do that.

Today I got started on my loan process – or at least I found out what I need to actually take the next steps. It was, of course, not nearly as scary as I expected, although it was still scary. I feel good about at least finally doing something in that direction.

Later, I finally balanced my last bank statement and updated my checkbook. It’s odd how the little things can keep falling through the cracks until they become “projects.”

It felt good to talk about my living situation at a meeting today. Someone chatted with me afterwards that she appreciated hearing my share, which is affirming to hear.

Today I’m thankful for the small steps of progress toward addressing my student loan paperwork, for getting some work done at the office when it was nice and quiet (I could ignore the phone, heh heh!), for getting my checkbook updated and for a meeting to keep me grounded in the program. 🙂HPIM1992 T back

60 Days: to 60, to New Beginnings, and to Transformation

At some point within the next 60 days, I will have turned 60. Yep, the big Six-Oh. A year I’ve never been able to envision for myself. Don’t know why. My pastor told me once that everyone has an age in their minds that they think they’re going to die or that they can’t see themselves living beyond. The goofy part is that I’ve also presumed I’ll live well into my 80s or 90s because relatives on both my mother’s and my father’s sides of the family have done so. My dad’s father died at 98, his older brother is still going at 93, and his younger brother is in his late 80s. My mom’s dad made it to 86, her sister made it to 99, and their aunt made it to 93. Longevity is in the genes! So whatever is going on with that notion of not picturing myself post-50, apparently it’s a normal thing. (The pastor who told me that – his ‘age-limit’ was 35. We were both in our late 40s when we had this conversation.)

As to new beginnings, I’ve been wanting to move for quite some time. Tonight I learned that I’m going to have to move. My landlady has found an opening in a retirement home and will be moving there in two months. The deadline is actually the end of March, but I’m hoping to be in a happier new place before then. We’ll see what my Higher Power has in store.

Transformation is the never ending quest and the never ending journey, for transformation happens again and again whenever I create the space and find the willingness for change. During the next 60 days, my student loans will all be out of the deferment they’re in, I’ll have a payment schedule and I’ll either be finding a new rhythm to my life (which is another new beginning, of course) or I will have crashed and burned. Even as I’m quaking in my proverbial boots, I’m determined to find the new rhythm.

I’m so tired of letting fear control my ability to move forward. Just when I think I’m making progress, and indeed I have made progress, I find myself faced with another challenge, another paralyzingly fearful decision to make or action to take. In this case, I have a twofold situation. I have loan paperwork to process (and my loans are about the size of a mortgage…oy…) and I have to find a new place to live. Both of these are major stuff on the stress-factor scales.

My plan is to avail myself of my Al Anon resources – books, meetings, my sponsor, and phone calls (the basic tools of the program), take things one small step at a time, and do my best to recognize and appreciate the progress I’m making along the way.

I’m terrified, and I don’t want to be. I feel backed into a corner, yet I still have choices. I have no idea how things will turn out – but I know that my Higher Power wants to fill my life with blessings if I’m willing to receive.

For the next 60 days I’m going to do my best to move into my 60s with a little more grace and ease than I’ve moved into most of the other decades of my life.

To begin the countdown, I’d like to appreciate some of my recent steps toward this end:

  • The night before last, I sorted three cartons of paper piles into three broad categories that can now be sorted further when I have time (financially related, scrapbook related and everything else).
  • In the past week I made a program call, called and texted friends and even called a family member to seek emotional support through some bumpy moments, including a health crisis with my brother that led to my taking a good, hard look at my own self-care practices.
  • I reached out and asked for help in sorting my scary paper piles.
  • I’ve asked someone who is also looking for a place to live if she’d like to connect to see if we might be compatible and want to find a place together.
  • I’ve come to the startling realization that with my newly begun, virtually full-time employment, I have more choices around renting, including signing a lease. (It’s been a long time since I’ve been in this position.)
  • I’ve found healthy ways to exform the fears that keep trying to rear their gnarly little noggin’s.
  • I’ve written and published this post! 🙂

New Beginnings, Tiny Transformations (Tue, Jan 1st)

An affirmation for the new year!

An affirmation for the new year!

In the past two weeks, it feels like there are new beginnings in my life. So many things keep arising for me. Little things. Tiny shifts in my thinking that give me a new perspective. Sometimes it’s even tiny shifts in how I do things.

For instance, the other day I put my washcloth on the other faucet handle in the shower. Since I keep a cloth for wiping the counter on one handle, it dawned on me that it made more sense to keep the cloth I use frequently within closer reach. Yet it had never occurred to me to switch the two. Indeed, I had never given it any thought.

It makes me wonder, how many other little – or not so little – things do I do in my life that could be done a little more easily, conveniently, even efficiently if I thought about them for a few moments?

I certainly don’t intend to scrutinize everything I do, but it’s interesting to notice that many of these shifts are happening as a sort of chain reaction to small changes. There’s something about being open to new possibilities, about being willing to change, that clears a path for change to simply happen – unexpectedly, gracefully, with an ease that wouldn’t have been available if I hadn’t first let go.

HPIM1909Each time I become willing to make a change in one thing, I find myself willing to make other changes. With that willingness – and the changes that accompany it – creative new possibilities spring forth. Okay, so switching which washrag hangs where isn’t all that creative. Still, I’m noticing that my willingness and openness to change and be changed is trans­forming bits and pieces of my experience that I never thought about doing differently.

With the end of 2012, today seems like a day to reflect on my dreams and my desires for my life. The word “goals,” I confess, feels intimidating. “Goals” feel like targets and targets require being hit or you’ve missed or, worse, failed. Goals are places to be reached, rather than a journey to be taken. Dreams and desires continue to expand and transform as my circumstances and, more importantly, my thinking change. Things I couldn’t conceive of including in my dreams become new, exciting additions to my dreams, sometimes replacing former, limited versions of themselves. Even the way I imagine possibilities is changing.

Saturday I shared my fledgling “Dream Book” with my sponsor. Inspired by the “Possibilities Book” Georgia (played by Queen Latifa) has created in Last Holiday, combined with an annual collage party I’ve enjoyed attending for the past few years, I decided to create a “scrapbook” of dreams and desires. It’s not technically a scrapbook. It’s actually a large binder (purple, of course) with pages filled with images I’ve cut or torn out of magazines and catalogs. For the time being, I’m most interested in images of the kind of place I’d like to live – welcoming, comfortable, spacious, although I continue to clip any and all images that reflect my dreams.

Changing my thinking

Changing my thinking

So far, I have only a few pages in the book, but the pile of images from which to choose keeps growing. Right now I’m searching for images of kitchens, since I feel limited in my freedom to enjoy using the kitchen where I live right now. Among the images I’ve selected is one with a friendly-looking woman. It conveys both the notion of a kitchen to enjoy and a roommate who invites me to enjoy and share it with her.

My sponsor was so pleased to see what I’ve started. After she looked through the book (all 6 pages of it), she returned to a card I had tucked into one of the front pockets of the binder. It’s a list I created when I began my 7th Step. It has six of my character weaknesses, along with their positive counterparts, written with colored markers and in such a way as to create its own visual image of what I want to release and what I want to expand in my life. The last one on the list is “Deprivation Thinking”; the positive counterpart, “Expectations of Abundance.” She pointed to that and said, “You’re already doing this.”

Today I wanted to spend some time considering and affirming my dreams and desires for this year and for my life, perhaps by adding more pages to my dream book. Yet without realizing it, I let my Higher Power lead me and I soon found myself organizing some paperwork for a meeting I attend. The funny thing is, I didn’t even start out intending to do that. I simply wanted to update my notes for the last month. But one thing led to another and I was gifted with an unexpectedly productive afternoon!

I’m not quite finished, but now I know I don’t have to be finish today. I can continue it another time. What a change from old patterns of thinking that led me to believe that it would never get done if I didn’t complete it now! It’s surprisingly freeing to discover I can see so many things differently.

I’m still hoping to work a little on my “scrapbook” this evening, but I’m going to let those plans unfold as well.

It's a beginning!

It’s a beginning!

Pretending is hard (Wed – Dec 19)

HPIM1975I’m sitting here with a patch over one eye, trying to calm down the irritation that has persisted for about a week now. I see the eye doctor on Friday. They’re giving me a discounted rate and treating me as a returning patient rather than a new patient. I have no insurance, and we’re keeping what they do to a minimum. I just want to make sure my eyes aren’t in danger of any permanent damage and to make sure I’m taking care of them properly.

A caring friend asked me why I was wearing the eye patch. I began by saying that I thought it was “dress like a pirate day,” but I knew her question was sincere. So I told her. I’ve had pain in my right eye for too many days in a row and there’s something I can see that was never there before. Sunday I about freaked when I saw this anomaly. The next day, my Higher Power sent me a(nother) “do not be afraid” message and reminded me that all will be well.

On the way to work yesterday, I decided to sing. Not sure why, but listening to music or anything else didn’t appeal to me. So I made up songs about what I was doing and how I was feeling. Somewhere into the ‘how I was feeling’ part, the deep pain of missing my son surfaced and I began to weep. It’s been three and a half years since I’ve seen him. Neither one of us has the income to travel the distance between us. The one time recently when we thought there might be a possibility of getting together, it turned out it wasn’t going to work. And in my present living situation, presuming my landlady didn’t openly object, he’d only be able to sleep on the floor and hope that I didn’t step on him in the night.

HPIM1972Life is hard right now and I’m not feeling very courageous. I try to tell myself that it takes courage to face each day, to keep hanging in there when it feels so hard. That doesn’t always help much. I’m feeling alone. I’m facing a transition in my student loan repayments status that terrifies me. My living situation is still depressingly stressful while I have little energy for looking for a new place. And my body is experiencing more than the usual aches and pains as a result of it all.

Last Thursday at lunch, one of my colleagues asked me what I was doing for Christmas. It was one of those rare occasions when the lunchroom was practically empty. It was just the two of us. I shared with her about how long it’s been since I’ve seen my son. I told her a little about my less-than-happy living situation. When I mentioned that I might go to an Al Anon meeting on Christmas Day, she said she’d been in Al Anon as a teenager. Interesting how that explained why I felt a kind of connection with her.

It was an odd conversation in a way. She was getting ready to fly to Paris to join her family. I was talking about spending Christmas alone in my room. She flies to Paris often (having been born there and having dual citizenship). I can’t imagine the freedom to fly to see my son a few states away.

HPIM1976Still, it was nice to not have to pretend my holidays will be a fun-filled family event. I’ve gotten to where I dread people asking me what I’m doing for the holidays or even how I am. I’ve been having these moments of feeling like I’m at the end of my rope. Not in a suicidal kind of way, but rather in an “I’m going to throw things through the window and run screaming from the building” kind of way. Last week, in a particularly dark moment, I remembered a flower essence remedy that helps when you’re at your limit. I found some in my “medicine bag.”

The remedy is called Sweet Chestnut and it’s connected with the principle of release. I’ve been thinking a lot about release lately as I’ve tried to get along as best I can. As I read the description in Mechthild Scheffer’s book Bach Flower Therapy: Theory and Practice (Thorsons Publishing Group, 1986 – the best book on the flower remedies, in my opinion), she was describing exactly what I was feeling – what I am still feeling to some extent. Sweet Chestnut, she writes, is for those who are experiencing “that terrible, that appalling mental despair when it seems the very soul itself is suffering destruction. It is the hopeless despair of those who feel they have reached the limit of their endurance” (p. 161).

As alarming as that sounds, it is also the point when one is about to move into a “crucial inner change” – a time of releasing old destructive patterns and initiating new stages of spiritual growth and development. “One realizes that everything is taken from one because one needs to go forward empty handed if one is to be able to take hold of the new life that is coming towards one; that one has to give oneself up completely to be totally reborn” (p 162).

A positive response can happen during this challenging time, a time author and minister Catherine Ponder would likely call “chemicalization.” For this is the time when the old is being stripped away to make way for the new. The result, if one is willing, is a deeper trust in God in a time where transformation has made room for prayers to be heard and miracles to happen.

I know I’m here. I know I’m on the brink. But answering the questions of “how are you doing?” or “what are you doing for Christmas?” are no less easy because I’m on the edge of transformation. So I pretend to be fine most of the time because few people ask those questions truly wanting an honest answer. And I’m not always sure what that honest answer would be.

I pray that your own holidays are abundantly blessed with friends, family, and joyful memories. 🙂HPIM1983

Continuing the journey (Wed – Dec 12)

I find myself eager to create some kind of trackable framework that will guide my choices and focus in the coming weeks and months of this journey, yet I keep getting stuck. There are so many things I still want to do that require a little bit, if not a lotta bit of courage.

HPIM0979The one year mark was really just another step along the way in a journey that is endless.

I got to thinking about the Serenity Prayer yesterday morning – especially the second request: God grant me…the courage to change the things I can. I’m facing some decisions and some necessary steps around finances that are scary right now. And I’ve been wrestling with some depression. Not the truly overwhelming kind, but the kind that keeps my energy level just low enough that I’ve run out of steam by the end of the work day. Getting any tasks done beyond dinner and planning for the morning feels daunting.

In the morning, when I’m getting ready for work, I’m inspired and eager to write a post. I make a mental or even physical list of some tasks I want to get done. Fill out the student loan repayment paperwork. Order this or that item online. Finish categorizing the expenditures I downloaded from my bank account so I can figure out a budget. Start checking out some of the roommate websites so I can begin looking for a better living situation.

It all sounds really good in the morning and I eagerly await the time when I’ll be able to tackle these projects. Yet by the time I get home, especially from my 3-day-per-week job, my brain is mush and all I want to do is fix dinner and relax in front of a DVD for an hour or so. Then an hour turns into two or even three and it’s time to get ready for bed and the next day.

The idea of giving up watching DVDs in the evenings continues to cross my mind as a worthy goal. After all, I could get a lot done in the two or three hours I have free each evening if I wasn’t distracted by some movie or TV show. I’ve toyed with the idea of tracking my abstinence in this area, but I’m not convinced this is all that different than my original goal of wanting to clear out the clutter. One year sounded like an adequate period of time to make a significant difference in the amount of clutter that surrounds me. Yet I look around my room and the only thing that seems noticeably different from this time last year is me! (Which is a very good thing. :-))

So I’m still thinking about how to shape this new leg of the journey. (Or would it be a “log” of the journey?  ;-))

I brought an old photo of me to work to scan into a jpeg file recently. It was taken when I was around twenty. I’m sitting on my then boyfriend’s bed, holding a beautiful Mexican West Coast rattlesnake. Yes, you read me – a rattlesnake. A “fixed” rattlesnake that is. If she bit me (which she wouldn’t – she was really quite gentle), I would receive no venom.  (Btw, I would be disinclined to perform any venom-ductectomies on vipers anymore, but back then, it seemed okay.)

It's amazing what can become comfortable in the right circumstances

It’s amazing what can become comfortable in the right circumstances

I’m reminded of the fact that when I first met my boyfriend, I was terrified of snakes – ANY kind of snake. When I was over at his place, I would sit on the end of his bed, just inches from the (open!) door, ready to bolt if one of the snakes he took from a cage made a move toward me. Even when I saw the young kids who lived next door to me eagerly and fearlessly stroking the snakes my boyfriend held out for them to see, I was still ready to run shrieking from the room.

Yet, over the course of the first year we dated, I started learning about his snakes. I learned about their habits and their temperaments, and I watched him handling them and staying safe. Then one day when I was over at his place, he was holding his boa constrictor when the doorbell rang. Without thinking, he simply handed it to me and went to answer the door. It was the first time I had even touched a snake, yet I found myself fascinated and unafraid! In fact, I was soon eager to hold any of the snakes that were gentle and not at all inclined to bite!

In barely a year’s time, I had gone from being truly terrified of these beautiful creatures to being fascinated and unafraid of them – and I couldn’t even tell you how or when it happened, except to say that it happened incrementally. The more I learned about them, the less I came to fear them.

It’s been well over twenty-five years now since I’ve held a snake. I daresay I would have to go through another period of getting familiar with them to feel brave enough to touch one or hold one again. But remembering that transition from absolute terror to comfort with them makes me wonder – what do I fear now and what will it take to overcome that fear?

Reflecting on the journey – Day 366 (Mon – Dec 3)

HPIM1935I’m starting this post, not knowing if it will actually become a post. My internet connection is teasingly inconsistent. In the cone shaped icon that reflects the signal on my computer, there are four “arcs,” rather like the bars of a cell phone. The signal swings, at times, between one or two tiny arcs and the full cone of four arcs. And my computer is old and slow in general. But this is the last day of my one-year journey. I need to honor this day in some small way. It’s been a long and challenging twelve months.

It has been a year since I began this journey of facing my fears, testing myself, as it were, to see if I have the courage to change. When I consider my first posts and my seemingly worthy goals of clearing the tangible clutter from my life – or my room, to be more realistic – it doesn’t look like I’ve made a lot of progress. But when I look at the changes in how I respond to things, I am amazed at the difference. My sponsor commented on this when we met this past weekend and I mentioned that it had been almost a full year since I started my blog. Her observation was that the changes in me have been “huge.” A very nice thing to hear – and to have affirmed.

HPIM1937

I began this blog because I was tired of being ridiculously burdened by too much clutter that makes every move (and there have been lots) difficult and exhausting and highly stressful. I had come to realize that the reason I have clung to so much stuff and acquired even more is fear. I have been afraid to let things go because I thought I might need them and I knew I might not have the resources to replace them. One of the most annoying things someone can say to me is, “If you haven’t used it for over a year, you don’t need it!” Argh!!! The retort that leaps to mind when anyone is thoughtless enough to say that isn’t worth repeating.

The problem is that anytime someone would say something in this direction, a part of me would wilt in defeat, feeling the shame of being afraid to let go of my stuff and the deeper shame of being unable to afford a place that would allow me to get all my stuff out where I could actually use and enjoy it – and, yes, clear some of it out. I really don’t need everything I have in storage – I just don’t have the energy and time to plow through it when there’s nowhere to put any of it.

But I’m ranting. Forgive me.

HPIM1938As I was saying, I began this blog with an idealistic intention of clearing the physical clutter out of my life. Yet what I’ve actually been doing is learning to respond differently to the things that used to leave me paralyzed or quaking in fear. And I suspect there is a direct cause and effect going on.

When I began clearing the clutter not long after I wrote my first post, I started with the small things, the easy-to-discard things. At least, they had become easy to discard by that time. Without realizing it, I soon found myself letting go of somewhat (emotionally) “bigger” things.

HPIM1942Somewhere along the way, I began to let go my tendency to overreact in various situations. That was a more subtle process that began with small shifts and progressed until I found it easier and easier to let go of something I wished would have happened differently. That in itself has felt like a miracle!

As I consider the timing of this blog, it occurs to me that the idea for it began forming a few weeks before I had to move out of an apartment I’d shared with a friend, a few weeks after I’d begun my 7th Step – asking my Higher Power to remove my shortcomings. Actually, the approach I took was to look at my shortcomings and imagine the positive flip side of them. That’s what I asked my Higher Power to do, I asked for these character weaknesses to be transformed – and that’s what’s been happening.

I have to wonder if we sometimes underestimate the power of opening even a tiny door of willingness, a small window of trust. If I clench my hand into a fist, nothing can get in. But if I simply relax my fingers a little, before I even open my hand to become a receptacle, a space forms between the fingers and the palm – a space into which something else may come. Maybe that’s what I’ve been doing this past year – learning first to simply relax my hand and my fingers, then gradually, little by little, letting my fingers unfold.

The willingness to change does bear fruit

The willingness to change does bear fruit

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