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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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.

23 Days – Leaps and Stumbles (Sun – Feb 17)

May I always remember that growth happens even in the rocky places

May I always remember that growth happens even in the rocky places

I’m finding myself challenged – yet again – in this 60-day journey to a new beginning. This is my birthday month and I have come to think of myself as being “birthed” into the “third trimester” of my life – and it is coming with “labor pains”!

There’s something going on here that I don’t yet fully understand. Even though I “get” that recovery and progress are not consistently even and straight lines of progression, I seem to be ricocheting from serenity to fear and back again in varied and repeating cycles. And it isn’t fun at all!!!

Mostly the fear is around finding a place to live. For the past several years I have moved a ridiculous number of times. Sometimes I’ve been house-sitting, sometimes renting, sometimes living on grace with family. Now, I’m two weeks away from the date my landlady (and I) would like me out of here. A week and a half ago, I spent a day gripped by fear that I couldn’t shake, worrying about the situation. The more I fought against the fear, the more it stuck with me (of course).

Since that particularly difficult day, I have gradually moved back toward serenity and peace with the situation. Last weekend, I had some delightful time with a couple of different friends and appreciated a bit of help moving a few things into a storage unit. It felt good to take those preliminary steps that will make the actual move a bit easier.

This evening, I posted another ad on a popular free-“classifieds” website, as my earlier post had expired a few days ago. What I find puzzling is that editing and re-posting my ad served to trigger anxiety rather than to bring me some peace of mind for again being pro-active. What is up with that?

What keeps rolling around in my mind is that this may somehow be tied not only to the frequent changes in where I’m living in recent years, but also to a somewhat similar early childhood experience. I do not remember this, but my (younger) sister has told me that our mom let go our apartment every summer and took us to live with her parents. Our mom was a single-mom trying to raise two young girls on a teacher’s salary. It wasn’t easy for her and saving rent for the summer evidently helped.

What I remember is spending lots of time at my grandparents’ home and at my cousins’ home, which was conveniently nearby. I remember having fun, playing, feeling very much part of a big, loving family. There were five kids in their family and it was a place where I felt safe, accepted and loved.HPIM2039

Yet, as I continue to think about it, I suspect that the constant moving, which probably meant we could keep much, in terms of possessions, were more of stressful than memory indicates for me. When I imagine what it might have been like for me – leaving our current apartment every summer and whatever else was familiar, then returning to different apartment in the fall (though they were almost always in the same complex) – I can’t help but imagine it must have felt terribly insecure. Having fun visiting cousins you like is great fun; having to start all over in a new apartment with few possessions every year probably wasn’t.

When we finally did move into an apartment where we stayed year round, my sister and I lost all our toys one day when the charity truck took all the toy boxes on the porch, instead of the ones my mother intended them to have. My sister and I were crushed! And mom didn’t do anything to see about getting them back. Another loss. Another incident that left me with a need to hang on tightly to what I have.

I don’t know that these early childhood experiences of repeated loss were traumatic, but I do suspect they are at the heart of my deep-seated yearning for a consistent, reliable place in which to live and perhaps even at the heart of my ridiculous accumulation of the stuff that makes it so hard to keep changing living spaces.

I don’t quite know how I feel at the moment, but it does feel a little better to share about this here. Hanging onto the serenity is rather like trying to grasp mercury. It doesn’t work. I can only keep my hands open and let myself experience the surrender of trusting in a God who loves me and wants my happiness even more than I do.

As my sponsor has told me often, trust the process. For now, that means I will continue with my nightly practice of writing my thank-you note to God, jotting down the things I’ve done or noticed in the day that are affirming, and reviewing my “Dream Book” (which is growing) before I turn in for the evening. Whatever has happened that day, I appreciate the opportunity to remember where to place my faith.

Let me come with open hands...

Let me come with open hands…

42 Days: A Hair Trigger? Finding the smooth lane on a bumpy road (Tue – Jan 29)

HPIM0541 CroppedI had no idea how much a roommate website could trigger fear, followed quickly by anxiety and anger brought on by the fear. Talk about a “hair trigger” Al-Anon reaction! Oy!

In an effort to be pro-active in finding a place to live, I registered on one of those roommate-matching websites. It sounded like a good idea…sort of. First, I encountered very limited space allowed for what should be a field to let someone know a little about you. Then came fields like your favorite movie/TV show/music/etc. – which, of course, would certainly be my primary criteria for finding a compatible roommate. Not! Although I suppose it might help me eliminate some.

A couple of days later, when I had a few moments to log on and add a bit more to my profile, there was a message in my inbox. Sadly, the person must not be good at reading what I wrote, for she lives in the wrong direction from where I’d said I’d like to be. Perhaps she’s as geographically challenged as I often feel…

This afternoon, I decided to add more to my profile, disliking the way it was feeling more and more like a poorly designed dating site. I did a quick search and was discouraged by what popped up. I live in an area where there are a number of educational institutions and the proliferation of people looking for someone to share their room – not apartment – for what should be rent for one place or a shared apartment boggles my mind. I keep wondering, who gets the side of the bed closest to the bathroom?

I suspect the very reason it was triggering me so much is because it does come across like a dating website. It suggests that competition is steep and your questions better be cleverer than everyone else’s or you won’t get far. To make matters more challenging, the rent I can pay is on the low end of the scale around here. But it’s what I can manage for now.

HPIM1810Ironically? Poetically? Perhaps perfectly appropriately, this morning I turned to a devotion reading in my Daily Guideposts 2012 that must have foreseen my afternoon. The verse with it went something like, No one can discern their own errors. The reflection with it was about a woman who filled in for her rabbi one Saturday morning. She knew well the words she would be reading and reciting; what she failed to consider were the logistics of moving from point A to point B during the service. She encountered one after another of mishaps – a locked cabinet that she should have unlocked, a piece she was supposed to remove but wasn’t tall enough to reach, and so on. Yet after the service, people kept thanking her for making it inspiring.

She was baffled! How could such a klutzy performance be “inspiring”?! When she asked a friend who was there about people’s surprising response, her friend told her that because it had not gone perfectly, but had still been done, others saw it as something doable. It didn’t have to go professionally and perfectly, as they were used to seeing with their rabbi. (Glad I caught the “rabbit” vs. “rabbi” typos! ;-))

The message of this woman’s experience hit home for me in a profound way. I hope I will be able to apply it to my attempt to use a roommate-finding website. As I left the office, with the fear escalating into anger, I struggled to find my rational mind. I recognized that I was being triggered and I began to sort out the reasons why. Or at least, I got a start on it. There are probably lots of reasons really. But being able to recognize what’s happening, even if I feel like I can’t control it, helps. It reminds me that I have a program, I have tools, and I don’t have to do it perfectly.

It’s not about my answers, the details of my profile or anything else on my listing being “perfect.” It’s about taking a first step toward what I want – which is a place to live.

I’m grateful that just writing this here reminds me that this is about taking a first step and about letting God meet me wherever I am, however far I do or do not get. At my meeting Saturday, there were four slogans in a sequence that caught my attention: This Too Shall Pass, Let It Begin With Me, Let Go and Let God, and Keep It Simple. I want to remember these slogans and appreciate how they can remind me that this really is about taking it one day, one step at a time.HPIM0822

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! 🙂

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

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 break in the wall – Day 317 (Tue – Oct 23)

Do you ever have trouble deciding what to do? Not because you don’t have anything to do; rather because there are too many things to do. That’s how it feels for me right now. I keep floundering. Do I go through mail? Do I organize my shelves? Do I do Step work for my next meeting with my sponsor? Do I start my Step work for the other programs in which I’m less active? (Everything goes back to Al Anon for me, so that’s my primary program and the one that helps me with the others.)

Do I read? Do I relax? Do I blog? What is it exactly that I’m “supposed to be” doing right now – besides hiding from the emotional turmoil just below the surface?

In the past ten days, I have been through an upheaval of body memories and emotions. Old memories are surfacing, clarity is arising around those experiences, and possibilities for positive change are determined to filter through the confusion of unexpressed grief, fear and anger to let themselves be known. I tried writing about this, but I find myself talking in circles and don’t quite know what to do.

Without going into detail, I had an experience of recognizing on a deep level the abusive nature of a previous relationship. I had spent years discounting how I had experienced it because it wasn’t physically violent in direct or tangible ways. Therefore, it couldn’t really have been abusive, right?

“WRONG!” my body tells me.

I’m still trying to sort through the myriad thoughts and feelings that have surfaced and continue to unfold. Later this week, I’m going to work with a dear friend who is trained in areas that will help me to process this. We’re going to do some InterPlay work with this because I need to work on a body-spirit level and avoid getting stuck in my head. I’ve already spent too much time analyzing and compartmentalizing my experiences of this. It’s time to listen to what my body has to tell me about how this did (and still might) affect me.

The thing is, as difficult as this has been (I know there’s a ton of grief just waiting for the right window to open so it can spill out), it has also led to the deconstruction of certain beliefs about myself and relationships. In short, I have realized that something I believed about myself might not be true and that I may have the ability to move more gracefully into a new relationship than I would ever have thought possible.

That realization itself leaves my head fairly spinning, as I continue to integrate this new information.

Perhaps I’ll be able to talk about this more later. As I continue to discover what is and isn’t true about myself, I know it will reshape how I see the world and what I see as possibilities for my life. For now, I’m grateful to discover that pulling out a single stone from the wall sometimes leads to an avalanche that creates a new door to a brighter other side.

(Am I making any sense at all today?)

Challenging Choices – Day 288 (Mon – Sep 24)

The trouble with change is that there are so many choices to be made as a result of the change. Moving, in particular, presents its own challenge because virtually everything has been thrown up in the air to land in a different place. Sadly, my desk top and the corner to the left of it still look like that’s what actually happened. This is where the challenging choices come in.

Did I mention the room is quite small?

It’s the end of a day that started before 5 a.m. when my alarm clock went off. I’m tired. I probably shouldn’t have followed dinner with that delicious Trader Joe’s Greek yogurt. (I feel too full, which doesn’t help.) And I’d like to start getting ready for bed in about half an hour so I can get a reasonable night’s sleep before the alarm goes off early tomorrow morning. I have clothes to get ready, things to put away, and breakfast and lunch to plan.

I find myself faced with too many choices. I could (and probably should soon) bring my check register up-to-date. I realize I’m not at all certain what my balance actually is. (Online banking is helpful, but too often misleading.) I would like to start putting things in the desk drawers, rather than having them scattered on top of the desk or temporarily perched in various other places in the room. However, before I can put things in the desk, I’d like to remove the old and grimy-looking drawer liners and replace them with fresh, new contact paper. Plus the drawers stick when pulled, so I have some sanding to do. There are still a few boxes I need to sort and clear out. The bookshelves are only partly organized – some things are where they may stay, other things are temporarily hanging out till I can put them in more convenient places.

I could check my email, write in my reflection journal, read some Al Anon literature, relax and watch a DVD, make a call about tomorrow’s possible lunch date, write a blog post (clearly you can see which choice I made this evening), or start early preparing for the morning (picking out clothing, cutting up food for breakfast, and so on).

It’s a mystery to me how I ever used to be able to do so much before and still get my rest! I used to have a three-hour window between getting up and getting out the door; now I have a two-and-a-quarter-hour window.

How’s this for dazzlingly large…not!

Does it truly make that much difference to have my “kitchen” scattered in three locations (bedroom, kitchen and garage) when my bedroom is only five steps from the kitchen and the garage is reasonably close (although it won’t feel that way in the rain)? At my aunt and uncle’s, my bedroom was down a long hallway from the kitchen and my refrigerator was just past the good-sized dining area. Yet I seemed to have been able to get more done in the morning and to have consistently had time for my morning journaling. What am I missing??

It was more convenient to have all my refrigerated food indoors, where it only took a dozen steps each way to retrieve one more thing if I forgot it. It is challenging to have to stop and carefully plan everything I need so I only have to go to the garage once (hopefully) while preparing breakfast and lunch – especially because it’s dark out when I’m fixing all this.

But what bothers me more than anything else is the frequent sacrificing of my reflection and journaling time. That’s my time spent talking to and listening to God. That’s the time when I ground myself for the day. That’s the time I depend on to be reminded that I am not alone on this journey even though I often feel alone. At least in terms of human companionship.

I dislike having to make choices between multiple things that are important and/or multiple things that I want to be doing. I dislike having to rush or forego my journal time with God if I’m going to prepare food that adequately nourishes my body (except that I haven’t found time to properly evaluate the foods I’m preparing and suspect I need to overhaul my breakfast and lunch choices). In short, I dislike – sometimes intensely – feeling under a time crunch both morning and evening and keep wondering how on earth I’ve been able to do seemingly so much more in the past…

Yet despite this frustrating time of adapting to a new and, let’s face it, rather inadequate living space – perhaps even because of the challenges, there are incredible moments of letting go that seem to come with greater and greater ease than ever before. Could it be that this is the winepress and I’m the grapes being pressed to yield the best part of the fruit?

One bona fide perk of this tiny room – the view out the windows lined up along one wall!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Actions, Small Steps and Noticings:

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

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