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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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. 😉

49 Days – Clouds along the way (Tue – Jan 22)

I’m feeling a muddle of emotions right now. Yesterday morning I couldn’t reach the loan company, so I went ahead and uploaded the documents they should need to figure out my payments. It felt good to get that done, even if I’m not quite certain what all they’ll need. Thankfully, I was able to release it to God long enough to get busy at work and be distracted by my tasks there.

Shifting...

Shifting…

Last night, my landlady said something about the inaugural address and asked if I’d seen it. Then she remarked that it would be best if I could be out of the house by the first of March, that I could move “anytime.” A few minutes later she told me that someone would be coming by to look at the desk and the dresser in my room today. She said they wouldn’t touch them; just step into the room long enough to get a quick look. I tried to appreciate the advance warning, even though I feel vulnerable having anyone come into my room while I’m gone – even her. The deflation at how often I’ve felt like I have no privacy flowed back into my thoughts.

When I thought about someone only being able to take a cursory look, I asked her if she might want to tell them that the desk is quite high. It is actually inconveniently high – even with my adjustable chair at its highest position, the desk is still too tall to use comfortably. My landlady stated emphatically that she was not going to tell them that! She knows it’s too high for most people.

I went back to cooking my dinner, bothered by the idea that this person will only get a quick glance at the desk and possibly end up unhappy with it once they get it home, if they decide to buy it. I don’t know if it’s an Al Anon thing to be almost compulsively honest at times, but it bothers me that she plans to make a point of not mentioning something that might understandably – and quite reasonably – deter the sale. It feels terribly unethical.

So now, I feel like my privacy is being invaded and I’m somehow facilitating a bit of deceit. And it bothered me for quite some time. It also bothered me that she has gone from “we have plenty of time” (i.e., till the end of March) to I can move “anytime,” best by “March 1st.” It feels as if I’m on ground that keeps shifting.

I am, in fact, eager to find a place – or at least for a place to find me. I’m also intimidated at the prospect of getting on one of those roommate websites or the area online advertising sites. A part of me feels anxious to get this going. But I asked my Higher Power for clarity around what the next right step should be and got the message: my loans. They have an imminent, even immediate deadline, whereas I do have a few weeks in which to find a new home.

As depression tries to sneak up on me again, I am considering some of the things I have been reading in the past few weeks, asking myself how to see all this differently.

One step at a time

One step at a time

I read a wonderful reprint of an article by Norman Vincent Peale, the well-known author of the long-time best seller, The Power of Positive Thinking. In the article, titled “Do It!” [Guideposts, January 2013, pp 24-25], Peale states that if we’ll only take the first step in what we believe to be the right direction, God will support us the rest of the way. He talks about taking action as a way of liberating energy and building confidence and how those unfulfilled tasks become energy drains. In short, he recommends that whenever we believe we are moving in the direction God wants us to move, we should just do it!

I did notice how I had little bursts of productive energy after taking even small, seemingly-unfruitful steps with my loan process. In the past couple of days, I’ve gotten some papers sorted to where I can tackle them more easily and last night I got my checkbook up-to-date. (It’s always helpful to know how much is actually in there, don’t you think?)

Sunday evening, I read a terrific article in the February O Magazine, called “Off the Beating Path” by Martha Beck (pp 43-45). Last night felt like I hit a “rumble strip,” as Beck calls those bumpy patches where things seem to be going the wrong direction. One of the ways to navigate these times is to reverse how we see things. When we think it looks like disaster, flip our thinking and consider the possibility that it’s actually a good thing and look for the ways that it is.

At this precise moment, it’s more head knowledge than heart knowledge for me in my present circumstance. Yet being encouraged to move “anytime,” by March 1, does free me to do just that, without having to worry about how much notice I will need to give. I’m trying not to think of it as my timeline shrinking – which is ironic because I would truly love to be able to say, “Hey! Found a place! Moving this weekend!” Now I know that would actually be okay. As for the “let’s not tell prospective buyer the desk is annoyingly tall” thing…I need to let that go. It doesn’t have my name on it and reminding myself of that by writing it here actually helps me to see the truth in that. I didn’t realize how much I was getting caught up in taking responsibility for someone else’s behavior.

You know what else, just acknowledging that has lifted the depression quite a bit! An “Ahhh! Moment” – just like the cover of O invites. Thank you once again for giving me a place to sort out what’s going on inside. 🙂

Growth happens in even the tiniest of spaces

Growth happens in even the tiniest of spaces

(Btw, have I mentioned that “cross talk” is perfectly acceptable here?  ;-))

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.”

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!

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. 🙂

A pointless delay or Divine intervention? Day 339 – 27 days left (Wed – Nov 7)

Sometimes I wonder if those little things that delay my getting out the door in the morning are actually my Higher Power lending a helping hand to keep me from harm’s way.

This morning, I had hoped to get out the door about ten minutes sooner than I actually did. Come to think of it, I intended to remember to leave even earlier than that, since there was to be road construction with up to twenty-minute delays on the route I normally take. But I had forgotten all about that this morning until I was walking out to my car. Since there was nothing I could do about leaving any earlier, I let it go.

As I approached the turn onto the back road I normally take, a very ‘still small voice’ said, Go right. Without missing a beat, I simply turned right instead of left, as I usually do. To my surprise and delight, there were virtually no cars going the way I was going and I encountered lots of green lights. Then, as I drove over the freeway on my way to the on-ramp, I noticed the traffic was backed up and seemingly at a stand still.

By this time, there wasn’t much I could do about the route I’d chosen, nor were there any alternate routes from that point. So I slowly – very slowly – inched my way along until I finally merged. It wasn’t even stop-and-go traffic. It was stop, inch, pause, inch, wait…

It took about half an hour to cover the distance that normally takes perhaps five minutes. I knew there must have been an accident in the stretch where we still only had two lanes before we could spread into four. I began praying for the people involved, the emergency response teams that were either there or on their way, and even for the emergency vehicles trying to make their way through the clog of cars.

When I finally drove past the accident site, which was much farther ahead than I had guessed, I saw at least four cars that looked badly mangled from the collisions that had obviously happened.

My efforts to let go and simply pray for those involved, including releasing concern about being late for work (I knew no one would be upset – which is something I might not have recognized a few short months ago), enabled me to experience a lot of serenity during what could have been a stressful driving experience. Most people I know aren’t too happy when their 15-minute commute turns into a 45-minute commute. Yet I was truly at peace with that part and more concerned about whomever may have been in those badly damaged cars.

Shortly before I left the office at the end of the day, I heard that two people had been killed in that accident. In checking online just now, that, as so often happens, may be an exaggeration. According to the report I read, two people did suffer major injuries and six cars were involved. Apparently a trailer had come off of a big rig and caused the multi-vehicle accident, closing that section of the highway until shortly after I got there. Leaving considerably earlier wouldn’t have gained me more than a few short minutes.

As I was driving home, it dawned on me that if I had left as early as I would have liked, I might have either been a participant in the accident or perhaps a witness to it. As I learned a few minutes ago, it happened far earlier than that. Still, it helps me to appreciate the value in “being still” and letting things unfold. Even the time it takes me to get ready for work and out the door in the morning. Perhaps even the time it takes for my life to change in the bigger ways over which I seem to have so little control.

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