52 Days – Am I Afraid to Be Happy? (Sat – Jan 19)

Last night my fears were trying to get the better of me, so I cast about for what to read. I had a Guideposts, a Forum, a DA book – A Currency of Hope, and Ponder’s Open Your Mind to Receive. I was floundering, wondering what would be most helpful to me to read, feeling anxious and worried even about such a small thing.

I briefly considered the Ponder book, but thought I needed something other than “merely” opening my mind to receive. I was unsettled, unable to think clearly. I opened the DA book and found a story that I had already bookmarked to read: “Busting Out of Debtor’s Prison.” I started reading it. I connected with things the author was relating about his experience. He spoke of feeling angry when his Pressure Relief Group told him he needed to earn more money.

I felt angry at the idea of being told that too. Earning more money would just raise my monthly payments on my student loans! Of course, that wouldn’t be until next year when I “re-qualify.” And I keep forgetting that I would still have the other 85-90% of that extra income to use for other things.

I want to surrender my fears to my Higher Power

I want to surrender my fears to my Higher Power

I’d truly like to learn how to stop my mind from racing to that place of fear! It’s especially ridiculous (although it feels fearful, rather than “ridiculous”) because I rarely even have clear thoughts about what that unseen, expected disaster might be! Mostly it’s a vague sense of pending disaster that has no basis in reality. And mostly, when I stop to think about it, when I can calm myself down and think more clearly, I discover that my worst imaginings are, themselves, ridiculous.

I am so grateful for the things I read last night. I am grateful to have read the story from my DA book. And I’m even more grateful for having returned to the Ponder book and to be reminded by the words from the Book of James, that I do not have because I do not ask (James 4:2).

In the passage from James 4, I was struck by the words in verse 4:1 that talk about our cravings or our desires being at war within us. That rings so true for me. I notice that I long both for a place of my own and for a place where I have a roommate with whom I enjoy sharing the space, that I might have the social connection of another person in the home. I long for an independent income that frees me from the need to work at a “regular” job, yet I love being able to be around others and share the experiences that bring laughter and friendship through the workplace. I long for a love in my life, yet I’m afraid to be open to the possibility of this happening with someone I’ve not yet met. I’m afraid of the unknown, for I have no control over it.

I want to rush toward changing my words and changing my experience, yet the idea of being abundantly blessed scares me! Which seems completely crazy, ridiculous! But it does…and I don’t really understand why. Is it really just the unknown that scares me? Is it some unarticulated sense of responsibility that a part of me knows will come with it? Is it the fact that I would have to change how I see myself or how I do things if I suddenly were financially blessed and found myself in a loving committed relationship where my life would no longer be just “my” life but would be a part of “our” life?

Am I truly afraid to be happy and blessed? And if I am, why?

I want the courage to jump into the "hoop."

I want the courage to jump into the “hoop.”

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56 Days – Remember to breathe, remember to breathe… (Tue, Jan 15)

Did you know that listening to upbeat music helps my spirit but muddles my thinking when it comes to writing a post? Well, it does. But I shall press on because I have had a most unfun day.

I don’t know why I thought it would be a good, even really good idea to begin my day by doing the processing of my student loan paperwork, to have the payments reduced. It sounded like a good idea – especially because I need to get it done ASAP. Unfortunately, when I entered my new and improved income, it turns out my monthly payments are alarmingly large. The federal government has the ludicrous notion that anything above 150% of the national poverty level constitutes “discretionary” income. Clearly they have not lived where the cost of living is ridiculous.

My uncle once asked me why I didn’t move somewhere less expensive to live. I pointed out that one needed to have a job and that it costs hundreds of dollars (at least) to actually move. Unless one has virtually nothing more than a few suitcases and a box or two, there are expense involved in relocating. (He hadn’t thought about that piece.) Of course, there are probably cheap places to live somewhere nearby…if one doesn’t mind living in a place where one’s belongings and one’s physical being, for that matter, are at risk on a daily basis. I mean, I’m sure there’s some kind of dump that goes for cheap. I’d rather live in my car.

I’ve been wrestling with this all day, trying to separate the reality from the wildly terrifying detours my imagination keeps spinning. Not too successfully… Finally, on the drive home, I remembered that I’m on this self-imposed 60-day journey. It gradually dawned on me that maybe I could hang in there for 60 days without doing something radical or insane. Then again, what would I do?

There’s always driving off a cliff. But I’d have to find a suitable cliff. Then I’d worry about all the unfinished business I’d leave behind. My son would get stuck cleaning up the mess and that is not a burden I would wish to lay on him by design. I could run screaming from the building – but it’s cold – and now dark – outside and who needs that? I could simply stand in my room and scream till my throat gives out, but my housemates might not appreciate it and I’m quite certain I’d rather not discover what it feels like to end up in a straight jacket.

What’s most annoying about this is the way the fear is fogging up my brain. I felt like I was moving in slow motion all day at work. I would have to think about things very carefully because I was viewing it through a cloud of fear and despair. My logical mind just doesn’t get a chance when my Al Anon, Adult Child terrified perspective grabs on for dear life. What exactly I think will happen I don’t know. It’s that vague, unidentifiable fear that spells disaster and emotional, if not physical, death. Especially, for me, when there are legal authorities like the government involved.

On the upside – I was actually too stressed to eat much today! Usually I start eating when I’m stressed. Maybe this could actually turn out to be a perk!

This morning, I truly believed I’d appreciate having bravely taken this first step in this loan process. Now I’m having to work hard to feel appreciative. Perhaps by tomorrow I will feel better. Right now the anxiety is too fresh. So, let me do a quick gratitude list and notice some things that might help me as my body continues to process this challenge.

  • I’m grateful to have a roof over my head and to be able to meet my monthly expenses for now.
  • I’m grateful to have a place to work two days a week where I can express my feelings and let my body have some of the movement it needs, whether it’s a quick dance, a quick temper tantrum, or any other kind of movement that supports my bodyspirit.
  • I’m grateful that I have people who encourage and affirm me at both my places of work.
  • I’m truly grateful for the years I have in Al Anon and the bits of wisdom that can bubble to the surface in times of stress.
  • I’m grateful beyond words that I have faith in a Power greater than myself and that this Higher Power, whom I call God, cares about me and is watching over me no matter what is going on in my life.
  • I am grateful to be reminded that all I really have to do is the best I can and God will take care of the rest. Thanks be!

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

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. 🙂

Graceful Moments – Day 354 (Thu – Nov 22)

In a moment of grace this morning, I felt the nudge to get up and wash my dishes. I had thought to wait a bit, to make sure everyone was up and awake. In fact, I had just started a movie that hadn’t yet finished the credits when the urge to get up and do them came.

I scooped up my dish-washing paraphernalia and dishes and went quietly to the kitchen. It was after nine, but I hadn’t heard signs of wakefulness from my upstairs housemates. I washed my dishes, laying them on a green terrycloth towel to drain. I was in the process of drying them when my landlady/housemate’s daughter and her son arrived, loaded down with the fixings for their Thanksgiving dinner. I finished drying and scooped away all my stuff just in time for her to start using the sink to bathe the turkey.

A graceful moment.

A little while later, I noticed my landlady outside my window. I first presumed she had taken the dog out for a potty break, then noticed she was looking at something. She turned around and walked back to go inside. I was vaguely aware of a brief glance in my direction. It dawned on me a couple of minutes later that she had gone out to see if the clothesline was available. I had put some towels in the dryer, because I, too, discovered the clothesline was already in use. She has a thing about using the clothesline instead of the dryer. I felt grateful that I truly did intend to hang my towels outside and that I wouldn’t have to hear her tell me again that she wishes I’d use the clothesline. And, I confess, a small part of me wanted to say, “So there!” – which is a not-so-graceful response.

Yet, it still felt like a graceful moment. (Or at least a “Whew!” moment. ;-))

This week has been sprinkled with moments of grace, serendipitous occurrences that suggest things may have started coming together for me. Sunday evening, I opened an envelope from Guideposts to give a friend of mine a subscription to their magazine. In the envelope was a postcard with an angel. She’s holding a young boy who is clinging to her, eyes closed in trust and comfort. It was just the image I needed to remind me of the prayer request I had sent in. There were several things I asked prayer for, but this image reminded me especially of my desire to see my son. (We live just far enough apart to make visiting difficult and we’ve both had some financial limitations to further inhibit the desire to see each other. It’s been over three years.)

I’m keeping the angel postcard where I can see it often to remind me of this particular prayer. Another graceful moment.

Tuesday, I finally bought a book I’ve been wanting to get for a couple of years now. It’s written by Phil Porter, one of the co-founders of InterPlay. It’s called The Slightly Mad Rantings of a Body Intellectual Part One. I’d only read one short excerpt from it before, which is posted on the InterPlay store’s website and seems so classic-Phil.

Later that evening, as I was noticing how uncomfortable I felt from having eaten too much and how squishy the jelly-roll around my middle has become, an unexpected and startling proclamation popped out of my mouth: “I love my body!” In that moment, I did love and appreciate my body, yet as recently as the day before I had been unhappy with the mushier parts and wondering if I would ever again feel good about my appearance.

The very next day at lunch, yesterday in fact, I opened the book to one of the first pieces. The title caught my eye and made me laugh: “lumpy thighs.” Perfect, I thought! As I read, I was surprised at how much it spoke to me. The short piece talks about learning to spend more of our time celebrating our bodies and ourselves just as we are, instead of spending our time trying to “fix” ourselves. I realized that in that unexpected statement of the night before, I had begun to celebrate my body just the way it is. (I highlighted almost two thirds of this piece.)

I “just happened” to buy that book hours before I began to redefine how I see my body. And I “just happened” to turn to a reading in it the next day that helped me to recognize – and claim – this shift in perspective.

Another moment of grace.

There’s so much more going on that I haven’t even attempted to capture here. Indeed, I barely capture it all anywhere. Could it be, as I close in on the one-year anniversary of my first post, that more has been happening than it seems? That I am being transformed in ways I didn’t even realize?

Patience has its rewards

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