Mid-Week Share: Letting Go of the Sunshine … and Everything Else

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This morning I picked up my worn out copy of The Language of Letting Go. I was so touched by the reading that I wanted to re-type it verbatim in this blog. But, alas, when I got to my copy of the original book that I have at work, it didn’t have the same reading for today. It must be a different version of the book. I’m pretty ticked about it, too. I can’t “let go” of wanting what I want. I walked out of my meeting this morning, and it’s cold and cloudy. I want some sunshine. I have to let go of that, too.

I think Melody chose that title for these astounding, profound meditation books because the art of letting go is one that none of us really ever “get”. I read somewhere that this life is all about learning how to let go of things. That’s the core lesson we all have to learn. In childhood, we have to learn to let go of being able to meet our own needs and let someone else take care of us. As teenagers, we learn to let go of the fact that we will be loved by our peers for who we are. As adults, we begin the arduous process of letting go of the fact that we are not GOD, and we don’t get everything we want. As we age, we let go of our influence, our faculties, our independence, and, finally, our life itself. It is a practice that never ends …… this letting go business.

I’ve learned that there are two extreme ways to avoid letting go … both described by codependency. There are the individuals who are so squeamish about letting go that they never connect. They’d rather not fully commit to love or let themselves fall into relationship at all so they never feel the pain of letting go. On the other extreme, there are those of us who just refuse to let go of anything …. anything ….until we have no other choice. I fall more into the second camp, but I can see that I’ve been doing a dance for the last couple of years on the other end of the spectrum. I generally won’t let go of a belief … a relationship … a dream … until my cold dead hands are pulled off, and I have no life left in me to resist. As the pendulum swings, I’m now afraid. I don’t do it gracefully, so why go there at all? Ugh …. I hate it … this letting go process.

We often refer to the grieving process when we have a significant loss, but, really, we have to go through the grieving process for every single little loss in our lives. And, there are so many losses that we don’t even acknowledge. We sometimes approach the letting go process by not even acknowledging that a loss has occurred. We inevitably have to deal with the loss. If we numb out or otherwise ignore that we need to let go, we end up carrying that loss around in our guts and have to feed it constantly with food, depression, bitterness and anger or any number of addictions and compulsions. We HAVE to learn to let go. I wish I could do it with more grace.

  • We have to let go of relationships and our dream of the way they should look. We fight to keep them the same, and relationships are living … they change constantly.
  • We have to let go of our dreams in order to accept the life we have.
  • We have to let go of loved ones who die or move on.
  • We have to let go of core beliefs that don’t work for us anymore. Those can go down really hard because we don’t usually even know they are there … tripping us up … tearing us apart.
  • We have to let go of pets that adore us.
  • We have to let go of financial security. Money comes and goes …. it always has and always will. Job security is the same way. There is no such thing. In fact, there is no security of any kind. It’s all a cruel fallacy designed to keep us from facing the fact that we have to let that go.
  • We have to let go of the belief that life will be fair. The good guys don’t always win, and the bad guys sometimes get the girl. And, just because we always have our heart in the right place, it doesn’t mean we’ll get what we want.
  • We have to let go of the belief that we know what we need. We may know what we want but we’re not in charge of that either.
  • We have to let go of the belief that God chooses to be in control of everything. Yes, He has the capability, but He gives us free will, and sh*t happens. He doesn’t always intervene, and, when He does, it may have nothing to do with how good you are.
  • We have to let go of addictions, compulsions and coping mechanisms that keep us stuck.
  • We have to let go of our health … either when we’re young … or when we’re sick …. or when we’re about to die.
  • We have to let go of whether or not our boss, our spouse, our kids, our friends or strangers like us. We also have no control of what they think of us or what they say about us.
  • We have to let go of race entry fees when we’re injured … and the fear that we’ll never be able to run again.
  • We have to let go of the weather, too. Today it is cloudy out, and I so want the sunshine. But, I have to let go of that, too. Maybe the world needs the rain.

OR … if we choose, we don’t have to let go of anything at all. With that choice, your life will basically suck. You will spend your life stuck, hurt, numbed out, angry, bitter and sick. I’ve never seen or heard of one person who never learned to let go of anything who is happy. Mother Theresa let go of the fact that she didn’t feel God for over 30 years of her lifetime and did what she needed to do anyway. Even Jesus had to let go of the way His people behaved … he could only offer relationship … and, if they didn’t take it, He let go of it.

I will leave you with a reading about Letting Go from Melody Beattie’s book The Language of Letting Go. It’s not the one I wanted to give you, but I have to let go of that. It’s the one I have….

Letting Go (December 4th Meditation)

“How much do we need to let go of?” a friend asked me one day.

“I’m not certain,” I replied, “but maybe everything.”

Letting go is a spiritual, emotional, mental and physical process, a sometimes mysterious metaphysical process of releasing to God and the Universe that which we are clinging to so tightly.

We let go of our grasp on people, outcomes, ideas, feelings, wants, needs, desires – everything. We let go of trying to control our progress in recovery. Yes, it’s important to acknowledge and accept what we want and what we want to happen. But it’s equally important to follow through by letting go.

Letting go is the action part of faith. It is a behavior that gives God and the Universe permission to send us what we’re meant to have. Letting go means we acknowledge that hanging on so tightly isn’t helping to solve the problem, change the person, or get the outcome we desire. It isn’t helping us. In fact, we learn that hanging on often blocks us from getting what we want and need.

Who are we to say that things aren’t happening exactly as they need to happen?

There is magic in letting go. Sometimes we get what we want soon after we let go. Sometimes it takes longer. Sometimes the specific outcome we desire doesn’t happen. Something better does.

Letting go sets us free and connects us to our Sourc.e.

Letting go creates the optimum environment for the best possible outcomes and solutions.

Today, I will relax. I will let go of that which is upsetting me the most. I will trust that by letting go, I have started the wheels in motion for things to work out in the best possible way.

Ode to Shame

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You showed up on my doorstep this morning… you …. I thought I’d left you long ago. I woke up sleepy, and I didn’t even need to hear a knock on the door. I knew you were there. I could feel you. I could feel the heaviness that precedes you wherever you are. At first I thought it was the humidity in the air … the unusual heat of November here in Louisiana … but when I opened the door, I saw you … almost saw you with my heart long before my eyes focused on your black, steely eyes. It took my breath away … I gasped a little … and squeaked … no … no … not you. You can’t touch me again.

Almost unwillingly I let you approach me. I say almost because there was a part of me that was hungry for you …. that had been longing for you … longing for your sweet, dark, paralyzing pain. You didn’t say a word. That’s not your style. You let me flounder … you let me sink into fear. You stood there with your black eyes, silently letting me know that this would not be quick. You were here to stay for awhile. “Please,” I whispered. “Don’t do this today. I can’t…” You walked past me like I had no control over who entered my house. Standing in my living room, you spread your darkness over the room. My house warmed up in your heat. I began to feel a familiar weakness, and I started to cry. The little girl inside of me started to cry. You grinned out of anticipated victory.

For a long time you’d been waiting for this. You knew the time would come. Like a panther, you watched with the patience of a hunter. You waited until you saw me stumble. Looking for the right set of circumstances, you waited. But, you’d seen me stumble before. So, you waited still. Hungry … patient … powerful …. you waited. For a long time you were with me day in and day out, and you got to know me. You knew my breath … how it quickened with fear. You knew how I moved when my energy was low. You knew my voice …. how it trembled with weakness. You learned me. I was your slave, and you helped to form me into who I became. But, I managed to leave your embrace and learn to live without your heavy touch. You knew you could take me again, didn’t you? So you waited. With every moment that passed, you became more and more relentless in your stealth. And, today, you were ready. I could see it in your eyes. I could feel it in your touch. I could smell it on your breath. The little girl in me shuddered with fear. For she was the one you were after. She was the prey. She was the tiny tasty morsel you craved.

You took me without a word. Because I remember. I remember the voices. I remembered my lines. I remember how to dance with you in your dark embrace. And, in a moment, you took me down. I began to cry. These were not tears of joy. These were not tears that cleansed. These were tears that drowned me in a river of sadness. They trickled at first and as I gurgled and spat at the words that have forever haunted me and the judgments that convict me of my unworthiness, the tears began to gush. Silently they took me away into a river of deep sadness. Deeper and deeper I was sucked into the current as it tore away at every foothold. At first I fought, grabbing branches and trying to pull myself out, but after what seemed like hours, I gave up, fatigued, empty and defeated. And, you laughed. You had me in your watery embrace. “I know you,” you said finally. “You need me.” And I cried. Because that is truth.

Somewhere along the way, the water turned dark and still. Almost swamp-like in it’s appearance, I knew this was where I had been before. I could die here. I had died here. You left me for dead. You walked out just like you walked in … quiet … black, steely eyes … grinning with hate and disgust. It was there that I rested for awhile. You were gone, and with you, your power. The wave, the storm was done. Icky, stinky, cold, tired and scared, I rose up and pulled myself along the bank until I found a gentle pasture. I slept a while, and I rested. A friend walked by and saw me. She pulled me up, held me awhile and told me a story. She told me a story of love. She told me the story of myself. She told me how beloved this story is. And, with her telling, she blew you away, and you became a bad dream. I was restored.

I know you will return. You always do. You are not evil. You are my darkness. You are my shame. You are not the enemy. You are really my friend. You teach me what I need to know. You teach me that I am stronger than you. You know nothing. Yet you know everything. You know every fiber of my being, and yet you have no idea who I am. I hate you, and I love you. You come like a cloud of darkness with your laughing eyes. You take me away to places I hate to go but I have to see. You are a magic carpet ride to a world I don’t want to see but can’t live without. You have brought me where I am, but you continue to push me beyond my boundaries. You bring old voices, old music and long forgotten songs that bring me to my knees. But, most of all, you remind me. You remind me of why I left you. I used to love you and lived in your embrace. You were my protection from the world. You kept me small. But, you lied to me. It’s okay to grow. It’s okay to shrink back. It’s okay to be wherever I am. I’ve learned to go with the flow and let you take me if you need to. You always slink back to your darkness, defeated. Good riddance.

Mid-Week Share: It’s a Matter of Trust

When I was a little girl, my uncle gave me two kittens. I was and am a cat lover. I loved everything about cats. I loved them when they were kittens, and I loved them when they were bigger. It seems like we always had kittens around back then because people didn’t get animals spayed and neutered like they do now. I LOVED these two kittens, and I was playing with them out in the yard. For some reason I put them inside an ice chest. Who knows what imaginary game I was playing? Maybe it was a ship that was sailing on the high seas, and, I put them in there to catch mice. At any rate, I put them in there, and I got distracted.

A day or so later, or maybe it was hours, I couldn’t find my kittens. I looked and looked and then remembered where I’d put them. I went over to the ice chest and lifted the lid…. and they were dead. I tell you this story because I remember it today like it was yesterday. I’m crying about it right now while I re-tell it. My forgetfulness as a four year old or five year old killed two little kittens that depended on me. It was the most horrible memory I have of my childhood. I have talked about it in therapy, and I’ve discussed it with my friends when we’re talking about regrets, failures and mistakes we’ve made. It haunts me, and it has all of my life.

The emotion it brings up for me is shame … I am ashamed because I let those babies down. I hate that kind of shame. And that same horrible, sinking, heavy feeling has caused me to “people-please” all of my life. I struggle with it at work with authority figures because I always want to be whatever it is they want me to be. I struggle with it in all my relationships because I try to read minds and anticipate who I should be in order to keep them around. I even struggle with it when I’m writing this blog. Hell, this stuff is on the internet. And, I’ve been putting myself out there, warts and all. A friend asked me if I ever had that dream where you’re in a room full of people, and you realize you’re naked. Yes…. why, yes, I have. And, I know exactly what it is about.

I’ve really worked on showing up as who I am…. on showing up as me – not who others want me to be or who I think they want me to be. But, boy is it hard sometimes. Last Saturday at the 5K in my hometown, I walked off from an interaction with an old friend, and when I returned, they were making fun of me. I felt like a knife was sticking in my side. I wanted to say something and explain myself and correct their impression they had of me because, dammit, I want them to like me. But I gently told myself that not everyone is going to understand me or like me, and that’s okay. Who knows – I may not like them either.

The first task I had to do was to find out who I was. That’s the big trick in being who you are. I spent so many years trying to be what I was supposed to be that I didn’t really know who I was or what I wanted out of life. That took awhile to explore. And, I’m still figuring it out. I remember those baby steps of saying no the first few times. I kept waiting for the world to end or someone to get mad, but most of the time they didn’t. That was shocking to me. In fact, they seemed to RESPECT me more. Their response was a real eye-opener. And people compromised with me. All of those fears I’d had all my life about what would happen if people weren’t pleased with me were only fears – False Evidence Appearing Real. They had absolutely no basis in reality. The more I stepped out in faith, and I saw the results were favorable, the more comfortable I became in these situations.

I lost some friends. Some of my relationships ended. And, I felt a lot of shame over that. I was conditioned to not let people down, and I was letting people down by not being who they wanted me to be. I would make people uncomfortable by speaking up, making waves, having fun when they thought we should be serious, taking care of me instead of their feelings and going against the status quo. When I started writing this blog, I had a noticeable exodus of friends that I used to hang with. It hurt. But, I also knew that I found something that really lit my fire, and I had to follow it wherever it was going to take me. It’s my life. I had to live it regardless of what happened.

What happened next really surprised me. I had new friends that were attracted to me. They related to who I was because they were like me. And, these were the people I really liked. I hated being around people who were always trying to anticipate what other people wanted and limiting themselves in the process. It made me anxious. It made me self-conscious. I couldn’t depend on them because they were trying to please everybody or be what they thought they should be, and they were wishy-washy. I didn’t really know them anyway because they didn’t know themselves. These people that are attracted to me now that I’m “being who I am” are people that are attracted to ME ….. not an act. Like attracts like. We are more compatible.

I had to learn to trust. It didn’t seem like people-pleasing had anything to do with my trust issues, but it did. I didn’t trust that I was okay the way I was. I didn’t trust that God created me in a way that was special and was worthy of love. I didn’t trust that being imperfect was acceptable. So, every time I risked being who I was, I was stepping out in trust. Now I trust that when I do something, I’ll be okay. I trust that I will have support in the way I need it no matter what I do. I may not do everything right, and I screw it up all the time, but I trust that any wrong can be forgiven. And, if it’s not, I trust that I can start over again with a new outlook.

I still feel sad over those kittens. They trusted me. And, I let them down. In fact, I let them down in a really big way. But, I was a little girl. I didn’t mean to harm them. I have to trust that somewhere in the kitty universe, they know that, and they forgive me. Who knows, maybe my kitties that I have now are spiritual descendents of those babies, and I’m making up for my shortcomings by giving them a great life. Wouldn’t it be great if things worked out that way?

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Midweek Share: I Don’t Want to Be Tough

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My sister-in-law sent me a link to this video by Glennon Doyle on Facebook yesterday. I had never heard of her, but I was intrigued by the intro “It’s braver to be Clark Kent than it is to be Superman.” I was hooked in the first minute or so when she said she was in recovery from bulimia, alcoholism and drugs. Here’s another woman – attractive, articulate and vulnerable – coming clean to the world.

A friend of mine asked me the other day why I was compelled to put my stuff on the internet. After I first went into a mini-spiral of shame, she backed up and said she didn’t mean it that way. She was just curious as to what motivated me to write such personal stuff on the web. I told her that I wanted to make sure people know that I wasn’t perfect, and they don’t need to be either. After all, I have heard all of my life how “together” I was. You are always so put together is a common compliment that I’ve heard all of my adult life. Thank perfectionism for that. It’s not who I really am. I am not put together at all. And, even though my inner self is dying to become put together and would literally wither and die from shame before admitting I wasn’t, I don’t want to appear put together. That’s why I bare my soul on the internet. I want people to know the real me … not the fantasy me.

I was in a shame spiral today, and I had a heated discussion with a co-worker over a mistake I made. It didn’t take much to put me over the edge, and I fell apart. Then, of course, I felt horrible shame about falling apart at work. “I want you to be tough because you are really good at what you do. I’m going to challenge you.” my co-worker said. It frustrated him that I was crying. I HATE it when I cry at work. It’s embarrassing. It’s inappropriate. It’s not tough. I was tough for the first 40ish years of my life. I felt nothing but anger. Punch me, and I’d punch back. I love Glennon’s description of recovery being like coming out of frostbite. All of those feelings that I didn’t feel when I was tough came to the surface. It took me two years to get my footing emotionally and to feel my way through the bottled up stuff that I had created with my tough exterior.

When I was in my 20s, I read a book called The Highly Sensitive Person. I suspected that I was very sensitive. It would be another 20 years before I stopped self-medicating long enough to really see how sensitive I am. I, like Glennon, have very high highs and very low lows in my emotional makeup. I am highly emotionally charged. I am sensitive. My ex used to tell me I was too sensitive. I’ll own that. I’d just take out the word “too”. I am sensitive, and that’s who I am. There may be days and situations where I’m tough, but, for the most part, I’m not. Some days I’m 8 years old. Some days, I’m 52. Today I was 8. And an 8 year old doesn’t navigate Corporate America very well.

I had a retreatment on a root canal this week, and they gave me a prescription for some painkillers. I knew I wouldn’t take any. I am tough physically. I ran 26.2 miles. I never take painkillers. They always sit on my shelf in my bathroom until they expire. I don’t even take ibuprofen anymore. Every time I take one I have to buy a new package because the old one expired. But, I do feel emotional pain really forcefully. I also feel love really deeply. I wish they had painkillers for emotional pain. That might be beneficial for me. I take that back .. for me, that’s called alcohol, shopping, sugar, and busyness. None of it was beneficial. I’ll just feel my emotions, thank you very much. A relative recently told me that I had a really kind and compassionate heart. She said that she knew that it really bothered me that I tend to wear my heart on my sleeve. She wisely reminded me that you can’t have one without the other. “Don’t let it bother you,” she said. “It’s a gift.”

Midweek Share: Short-Circuiting Shame

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I’m reading Brene’ Brown’s book Daring Greatly. She is a shame researcher. I don’t know how you get to be a shame researcher, but I know I’m a shame student. When I look back over my journey of recovery, shame has been one of my biggest teachers. Shame is painful. And, if you don’t believe me, Brown references research in her book that concludes that emotional pain from shame is the same physiologically as physical pain. There is no difference. But, I already knew this. I feel shame in my gut. And, it hurts.

Shame says, “I am bad.” Guilt says, “I did something bad.” There is a HUGE difference in these messages. If I am bad, then I don’t have a whole lot of motivation to fix the issue. I am not capable of fixing it because I am bad. If’ I did something bad, it’s actually empowering to fix it, make amends and/or make restitution. Guilt can be a positive force. I lived in shame for most of my second marriage. I was being told that something was wrong with me constantly. I take ownership for the fact that I wasn’t in a place to stand up for myself, but once the shame took over, all  of my defenses were not effective. Being in a place of shame, where I was bad, left me angry, controlling, defensive, blaming and depressed. I always felt tired. I felt overwhelmed. I was afraid. I felt unlovable, and thus I became so.

Brown makes the point that everyone feels shame. She says it is a universal emotion. The only people who don’t experience shame are those people who are incapable of empathy – sociopaths. So, you have a choice…either you feel shame, or you are a sociopath. I’ll admit to my shame. There are ways to recover from shame when it strikes. Brown gives some steps in her book that she calls Shame Resilience. They are essentially the same things I’ve been taught to do in recovery when I feel shame. They are as follows:

  1. I have to recognize that I am feeling shame. I know what the grip of shame feels like. For me, I start to feel very small. My energy seems to turn in on itself, and I get tired. I want to hide. I feel like a little girl, and I can’t speak up for myself. My stomach tightens.
  2. I have to own what happened and my part in it. At times, I can do this on my own, but I often have to talk it through with someone before I can sort it out.
  3. I have to connect with someone and share what happened. This is by far the greatest part of getting through shame. Shame dissipates in the light. If I keep it a secret, shame grows. Other people can also help me see that they have done similar things, and I’m not alone.
  4. I have to ask for what I need. I have to step into my power and do whatever I need to do for myself to take care of myself. If my energy is zapped, I may need to rest. If there is an unresolved issue from the event, I have to deal with it.

A year or so ago, I got a speeding ticket. I was traveling from Illinois to Memphis, and  I was really tired. In fact, I remember thinking I really needed to pull over. All of a sudden, I heard sirens, and I realized I was speeding in a work zone. I didn’t even know what the speed limit was but I knew it wasn’t 70. My heart sank. The police officer was nice and professional and didn’t shame me at all. I took care of the transaction. But, when the officer walked away, the wash of shame flooded my body. I started to drive away, but my energy started to sink. I started to cry. I felt like a criminal. I felt like I’d just been arrested for driving 100 miles per hour crashing through a work zone, knocking fathers all over the side of the road and leaving fatherless children destitute….on purpose. I felt awful. Once I became aware of how self-absorbed and out of control I was feeling, I exited the interstate.

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I sat on the side of the road in the car and cried my eyes out, telling myself what an idiot I was. I finally decided I’d better call someone, and I called my friend Keri. I told her what had happened and how bad I felt. She laughed. She told me this story of when she got caught speeding, and the officer had been a real jerk. By the end of the conversation, I felt much better. I had accidentally been speeding. What I knew was that I had to deal with the consequences of my actions by following through with my legal responsibilities. And, immediately, I needed to stop and rest because I was so tired. I had followed the steps that Brown mentions in her book.

I’ve felt shame since that time. I’ve followed those steps because that’s what I do to deal with my emotions these days. Had I not done it with the speeding ticket, I may have gotten defensive and blamed the officer for setting a speed trap and put myself in a victim mentality. That would not have helped anything. By processing my shame I was able to act like an adult and do the right thing. The day I went to court for this ticket – it was a mandatory court appearance – I had to take a day off work and drive 3 hours each way to get to this tiny courthouse in this Podunk town. There must have been 200 other people in the same boat. Some were angry. One had driven all the way from South Texas for his court appearance. Another drove from Wisconsin. We had all gotten caught. I was not bad. I made a mistake. And, so did they.

The problem with shame is it can be paralyzing if left to fester. For years, my shame did fester. I kept it a secret because I was ashamed of who I thought I was. And, the longer I kept quiet, the worse the shame got. Shame dissipates in the light, and the light is shown on it when we are connected to others …… and ONLY when we are connected to others. We are hard-wired for connection. But, we have to actually do the work to reach out and be vulnerable when we feel shame. And, when we do it, we encourage others to do it, too. I’d like to rid the world of shame…one step at at time.

Mid-Week Share: I am powerless over the seduction of that sultry brew…..coffee.

God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change...please, please, please....

God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change…please, please, please….

I woke up at 3 AM this morning reeling in total anxiety. There was no reason for me to feel anxious. There was nothing on my mind. But, my body was wired! My heart was racing. I was wide awake. I couldn’t even land on anything to worry about because everything, for the moment, is cool. When I was finally able to get my mind straight, I realized I was just experiencing my normal generalized anxiety.

I am often insane. The defininition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again, expecting the same result, right? Well, I’ve been really sleepy since the time change. I usually don’t have any issues with the spring time change. It’s usually more difficult for me in the fall. Don’t ask me why. I’m weird that way. But, going to bed earlier and getting up earlier are usually no problem. I slide right through it, thrilled to have more daylight time in the evenings. Not this year. It’s totally messed me up. So, Monday, I had a cup of coffee after lunch and then Tuesday I had one in the morning. I will NEVER learn!

My body does not respond well to coffee. I mean, it wakes me up for an hour or two, and, of course that’s why I love it. But, it does something to my nervous system that ramps up my anxiety levels which impacts my sleep. I know some people just stop drinking coffee after a certain time, and they are fine, but not me! No, I’m different. It’s not the caffeine….it’s the way it impacts my wacky anxiety-prone system. So, I spent about 30 minutes at 3 AM chanting the Serenity Prayer…God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference….over and over again until I fell asleep…just in time for the alarm to go off.

I have known that coffee no longer works for me for over 10 years. And, yet, that “hit” that coffee gives me is so seductive…so cunning…so baffling…..so powerful….you see where I’m going here, don’t you? Coffee is alcohol to me. I have this crazy, familiar hope that this time it will be different. This time I can drink it normally and get those fabulous effects without the downside. This time I can drink it without consequences. Right….insanity….I surrender.

So, yesterday, I went to the Fresh Market and dished out $19 for 1.5 oz. of Matcha…green tea’s version of espresso. It gives me the hit of energy and clear-headedness without the downside of the anxiety. I HATE paying that much for this stuff. But, it’s a small price to pay for the right kind of high – the kind of high that gives back to me instead of waking me up in the middle of the night and stealing my sleep again. It’s the kind of energy and high that comes from adjusting myself to reality and dealing with who I am and my own shortcomings. This morning, I feel sane. I am alert and awake from drinking my morning Matcha. But, I sure do miss coffee. Keep coming back, sweetie……

Mid-week Share: Climbing Out of a Rut

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Crawling in a rut….

The truth is that our finest moments are most likely to occur when we are feeling deeply uncomfortable, unhappy, or unfulfilled.  For it is only in such moments, propelled by our discomfort, that we are likely to step out of our ruts and start searching for different ways or truer answers.

M. Scott Peck

Steve Arterburn, a radio host for New Life Live, said to a caller one day who claimed they were in a rut, “That’s great! A rut has two open ends. A grave has both ends already filled in.” I love that. A rut is not final. There are ways to get out of it. When I lived in Louisiana, we’d get stuck in the mud all the time. We’d try to back up and forward to get out, and eventually we’d be stuck in a deep rut. In order to get out, we had to try something different. Sometimes, we might put a board under the tires for extra support. Other times, we might have to leave it and come back another day when the ground was drier. Other times, we could pull it out with another vehicle. But, the only way to get out of the rut was to add something new to the mix: time, support, or better conditions. The rut wouldn’t disappear on its own.

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My friends Jascia and Amy in the Tough Mudder last year.

In the year 2000, I had come to the end of myself (the first time). Unfortunately, I don’t learn everything the first time. But, this time, I had just broken off an engagement with a man from Seattle, was in some financial strain that wasn’t letting up, and I lived up North where I hadn’t made friends or settled in to the community. I was lonely, scared, broke, and, quite frankly, wanting to give it up. I realized one morning as I struggled to make it out of bed to face another frightful day that I had gotten myself into this. All of the decisions of my life had one common denominator. I made them. And, I knew I was a smart woman. But, somehow I was failing at this.

I sent out a note to several women that I knew, most of them acquaintances, but nice people. I asked for their prayers. I asked them to pray for some guidance for me. In reality, I didn’t trust myself and my own instincts anymore. I felt like Henry in Regarding Henry. It was time to say when. I just wanted some direction from somebody who knew more than I did, and, even though I wasn’t very faithful at that time, I knew that was God. The next day, answers started coming. I won’t get into a great amount of detail here because that’s not the point. As soon as the answers started coming, and new people started showing up in my life, I started to balk. I was in a rut, and being in a rut means you keeping trying the same things over and over again. And, I was scared to try something new. Because I am analytical, I have to evaluate everything ad nauseum.

I love this one...it looks like Jascia and I are dancing in the mud. Neither one of us remembers taking this...haha

I love this one…it looks like Jascia and I are dancing in the mud. Neither one of us remembers taking this…haha

It occurred to me that in order for me to try something different, I needed to go against my grain. I really believed that my best decision-making ability had gotten me to this place. That didn’t bode very well for changing my life. But, I figured out a way I could use that to my advantage. I continued to use my decision-making ability to make decisions on what I would do with all of this information that was starting to present itself. And, when I made the decision on what I thought was right……I did the exact opposite. That’s right! I did the opposite. I just committed to myself that whenever a path or decision presented itself, I was going to do exactly what I didn’t want to do. No matter what it was.

A woman approached me to room with me. She lived and worked part-time in St. Joe, and she needed a place to live 3 days a week. I didn’t want someone living with me. I had lived by myself for quite some time, and I just didn’t want to deal with a roommate and all that might entail. So, I said…..YES! ……that was hard. But, it helped me out of my financial predicament. And, she brought with her a whole community and lots of knowledge on spirituality and healing.

I didn’t do this forever, of course, but I did it for a few months. And, my life began to change. The people that were coming in and out of my life began to change. And, with it, they brought new energy, new solutions, and a new perspective. A new group of women started hanging around my life. I never really cared to hang out with women all that much before, but I made myself do it. BECAUSE I didn’t want to. I was born a rebellious act, but this time I rebelled against myself, and I had fun with it. My little girl inside sort of came to life when she could say, I’m not doing that! or I don’t care what you think, I’m doing that! And, I got out of my rut.

This was one of the harder obstacles. You had to have people hold the rope wall while you climbed. Then you turned around and held it for the others....and it was HARD to hold...scary to climb over the top. It was one of the ones I didn't want to do, so I said YES!

This was one of the harder obstacles. People held the rope wall while you climbed. Then you turned around and held it for the others….and it was HARD to hold…scary to climb over the top. It was one of the ones I didn’t want to do, so I said YES!

I learned a lot about making choices during that period. For one thing, I realized that there are no good or bad decisions. There are only choices with different outcomes. I’ll have different experiences depending on which path I choose. I tried some things spiritually, physically and intellectually. I learned that I could flounder with something and still have fun. Most of all, I learned that I liked women. That was huge for me, and women became an important part of my life from that time on. I always have my little Board of Directors, no matter where I am. I still get into ruts every now and then. When you play in mud, you’re going to get stuck. But, I know how to ask for help and find a creative way around a problem when I get tired of sitting in a rut. And, one of the biggest things I learned during that period is that I can trust myself. I’m actually pretty good at managing my life. And, I can create something different by changing my perspective.

Midweek Share: Listening to Shame

Vulnerability is the birthplace of innovation, creativity and change.

~~Brene Brown

Brene Brown has produced two of my favorite talks on vulnerability. I featured her first TED Talk called the Power of Vulnerability in my blog called Open Your Heart. In my spiritual path, I’ve discovered how essential it is to be vulnerable for emotional health, connection and spiritual growth. Without it, I don’t really think growth is possible. Brown is a Shame Researcher – an odd job title – and she studies the effects of shame on people.

What I most like about this video, and it’s long, is that she talks about the way that shame manifests in men and women and how it is organized by gender. She says women feel shame around not being able to be perfect, do it all, and look great doing it. For men, shame is around being weak. You’ll have to watch it, but she describes the most interesting interchange with a man about shame and how the women in his life contribute to it. Every time I listen to it, I feel convicted of not being supportive of the men in my life. Yesterday, I wrote about what men bring to a relationship. We know what the gifts are and what good men are capable of bringing. But, what happens when a man cannot be the source of strength, when he is vulnerable or broken? They are not perfect either.

Shame is universal. I once did an exercise with some women around shame where we looked into a mirror and put words to the things that cause us to feel shameful. The most valuable part of that experience for me was hearing the extent of shame that other women feel. I thought I was the only one that was eaten up with it and who struggled to rise above the weight of it everyday. They ALL had it too. Every last one of them had a bucket of shame as heavy and as nasty as mine. And, because we shared it with each other and in a mirror, I became more empathetic to them. And, in turn, I became more empathetic to me. That’s the power of vulnerability. I invite you to watch this talk. And, if you really like her, why don’t you join me in taking her online video course on The Power of Vulnerability. I think it looks awesome!

Midweek Share: Emotional Triggers

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Somebody must need to hear about emotional triggers this morning, and it might be me. This blog woke me up at 3:30 AM dying to be written. So, I’m going to listen. I was triggered in a big way a couple of weeks ago. I love the description of being triggered. The trigger on a gun is pulled, and the bullet and gun have no choice but to do what they are programmed to do. It doesn’t matter who or what is in the way, what caused it or how inappropriate of a reaction it is. If a gun is triggered, it’s going to shoot.

I am constantly amazed at how God designed us. And, I am particularly amazed at how He designed emotions. I’m a little irritated with the fact that women tend to be driven a lot more by emotions than men, but it really doesn’t matter how I feel about the fairness of it all. I have to deal with the hand I was dealt, and I am a woman….an emotional being. When we are children, we can’t help but be other-focused. We depend on others to feed us, clothe us, protect us and teach us. If we are left for any reason, we get very fearful. Children don’t understand the rationale behind outside responsibilities, addictions, adult’s shortcomings and crisis. All they know is that the person that needs to take care of all their needs is gone, indisposed or unavailable. And, to a child, that usually means death. I’m going to die if they leave me.

My biggest emotional trigger is abandonment. It’s a reason that I tend to be a perfectionist. If I do things wrong, people will not love me. If they don’t love me, they will leave me. As an adult, I can cope with being left. But, as a child, to be left is to DIE. And, that’s what happens to me when I get triggered. I get catapulted back into being a little girl, and all of those little girl emotions and fears come rushing to the surface just like that bullet shoots out of the gun. It is quick….powerful….unstoppable. I can deal with a triggered emotion by talking about it with someone and processing the emotion. But, I can’t stop the emotion. I can try, but it will come out all kinds of ways. It truly is unstoppable. And, the emotion is, quite simply – terror.

I naively thought recovery would eliminate triggered emotions. I thought some day I would walk through the world unaffected by other people’s actions. I would have this healed self that would not get triggered and could think rationally and act rationally at all times. That’s not the way God intended it to happen. I believe that God wants us here to connect to others, and one of the best ways for me to truly connect to others is to lean on them when I am triggered and let them lean on me when they are triggered. There may be some people out there who have no triggers, but, if there are, I don’t know them.

If it’s hysterical, it’s historical. This is how I know when I’m triggered. Work is a place I get triggered a lot. There are authority figures, demands, standards and criticisms all the time. There are also people that I have to work with who may not be people I’d consider “safe people.” I finally realized that when I get criticized for something, and it’s not tangible, I get triggered. I’ve learned to react to criticism by asking for the behavior or attitude that I need to change. That opens the door to a conversation where we can talk about what and why I need to change it. Often, they are being triggered, and it has nothing to do with me. Other times, there is something I need to change. But, it took practice to get there. And, it took successes with a particular boss to help me feel comfortable doing that.

Relationships are minefields. I know I’m going to get triggered. The other person is not living their life for me. They are going to be unavailable, pre-occupied, angry at me, and distancing at times. What I have learned is there is a difference in being triggered by an event and living in a triggered state. In my second marriage, I lived in a triggered state because he was emotionally unavailable. I have tools to deal with being triggered by an event and can get through those. But, when I’m in a state of being triggered, the amount of work, energy, emotion and fear that I have to work through is too much for me. It’s why I set standards for myself that I don’t date a person who is addicted, unavailable or unwilling to work on themselves. It’s why I don’t get too close or dependent on friends who are not supportive. I know I eliminate a lot of people because of those standards, but I’m no longer able or willing to work that hard to be in a relationship. It made me physically sick in the past. A friend of mine recently had a heart attack due to the unceasing stress of living with addicted people. I just won’t live in that kind of heightened state of emotional arousal anymore. It makes me tired just thinking about it.

When I do get triggered, I call a friend. I have a list of people who know how to handle it. They know my triggers. They know my baggage. They don’t say, “You’re overreacting.” They don’t say, “You’re being irrational.” Both of those things are probably true, but what they say is, “It sounds like you’re really scared. Is this a familiar feeling?” That leads me into pinpointing the historical event that I’m really processing. Those old feelings just got triggered again. Some tips on handling triggered people that I’ve found helpful are:

Acknowledge the emotion.

  • You sound really scared.
  • What is the overriding feeling you have right now?
  • Is this a familiar feeling?

Don’t judge the reaction. Judging is an abandoning act. It’ll just escalate the reaction. Avoid things like:

  • You are overreacting.
  • That’s irrational.
  • You are….crazy…too upset…needy….anything else that is a judgment.

Support them in taking care of themselves. But, don’t tell them what to do. Let them come up with it.

  • Ask them what they could do to be good to themselves. Often, being good to ourselves proves to our emotions that being abandoned by somebody else doesn’t matter. We can take care of ourselves.
  • Ask them how you can best support them. Most of the time it’s just listening. That helps soothe the fear because you are offering to be there for them.

Reassure them that they are lovable….okay just as they are.normalreacting normally given the trigger they just experienced.

The gift from God in all this is that He wants us to heal from our wounds. That’s why He puts other people in our lives to re-open those wounds. With healthy people around, I can heal and learn to deal with my triggers. With unhealthy people around, the wounds will just continue to fester, and the triggers get worse. It’s all about choosing to heal or stay in the problem. I choose to heal.

Okay…I did need to hear that. Thank you for listening! 🙂

Mid-week Share: Step 10 – Principle of Maintenance

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Step 10: Maintenance

Nobody likes to admit to being wrong.

But it is absolutely necessary to maintain spiritual progress in recovery.

main¡te¡nance

/ˈmānt(ə)nəns/
Noun
  1. The process of maintaining or preserving someone or something, or the state of being maintained: “the maintenance of democratic government”.
  2. The process of keeping something in good condition: “car maintenance”; “essential maintenance work”.

They call Step 10 the “maintenance” step. Steps 1-9 have led you up a path that begins with realizing something is wrong, offers some hope that it can be corrected, digs deep to find the root cause, cleans out unneeded garbage, and  cleans up the mess. But, like a wrecked car, once it’s fixed, that’s not the end of the road. It is used on a daily basis, runs out of gas, gets clogged up and dirty and may get wrecked. So, you have to have a maintenance plan. And, it’s always better to keep up with it than to wait until it gets all junked up again.

A friend of mine hated to go to the dentist. She feared dentists, so she didn’t go for about 10 years. As part of her recovery from alcoholism, she decided to start taking better care of her body, and, in particular, her teeth. She knew it would be bad. But, she was committed to doing it. She went to the dentist, and, sure enough, the work required was going to be painful, expensive and time-consuming to complete. But, she made the time, saved the money and faced her fears. Once it was done, though, she still had to go back on a regular basis to keep her oral health. She now knows that it is much harder to ignore ongoing wear and tear and be faced with a massive overhaul than it is to prevent problems from happening. That is the plan for Step 10.

It is suggested that at night, we look at our day, do a quick Step 4 and see if there was anything we need to clean up. Check to see if we harmed anyone, didn’t follow our program or didn’t take care of ourselves. If there was, we are to set about immediately to process it, or , if we have to make an amends, go ahead and do it. It feels good to stay clean like that. I now have such a low tolerance for guilt and shame that I can’t wait to clean up my messes. And, I still make them frequently. I’m human. I can be messy at times.

On the flip side, it’s a great time to consider what we did well. I know that I called my sponsor today and went to a meeting when I got in enough pain. That took care of it quite nicely. I have tools now that I can use to make my life better, and, when I use them, that’s progress. It’s so much easier to bury my head in the sand and just go with the flow. But, then I have to clean it up, and that’s not so easy. Often, my biggest messes are with myself. I don’t take care of my health, I don’t stand up for myself and my needs or I procrastinate on something important. I’ve been in a friendship lately where I’ve really backslid on my program. I let myself get involved with someone who is unavailable for even a friendship, and I tried to be needless to avoid stepping on their toes. That’s a familiar pattern with me. I find people who are in so much chaos and crisis that they have no energy for me, and I try to transform into some kind of needless, spineless jellyfish, thinking that will keep them in my life. Then, one day, I can’t take it anymore, and I get mad because my needs aren’t being met. I’m the problem. I was in denial about what I was doing. That’s the current mess I need to clean up. It may take me a day or two to get back on my feet from this one, but at least I caught it before I got in too deep.

That’s the beauty of maintenance. You catch it before it becomes an insurmountable problem. It gets caught and a spiritual solution is applied before people get badly hurt. Instead of having to do major dental work, we can get a cleaning and be done with it. This program is simple. It’s not easy by any stretch of the imagination. Who wants to say, “I was wrong”? I don’t. But, I do it anyway. And, that’s the beauty of this program. We know how hard it is to clean up a major mess, so we do things we don’t want to do because it’s the right thing to do. It’s called building character.