Sunday, December 30, 2012

One or the Other: Self Pity or Acceptance

I really hate it that any attitude I take that isn't acceptance is self-pity.  I've tried and tried to escape the truth of this.  I listened to an audio book on acceptance in the car and I'm sure other drivers wondered why the old lady in the old Honda Civic appeared to be yelling the f-word.  I needed to put up a sign that said, "There are just some things I refuse to accept!!!"

There's a whole philosophy of acceptance in the recovery programs.  No one tells us that we have to like everything that happens in life; that we should not have negative emotions.  Where the mistake comes in is when we don't change our attitude to realize that we are not Gods and so do not get to decide what should happen and what should not happen. 

We can dislike 100 degree heat in July but if we keep thinking that it shouldn't be that way and complain incessantly, we're just making ourselves more and more unhappy.  If, instead, we simply let go and accept what is, we become free to decide how to handle reality.  I can get a remote to start my car and get the air conditioning on before I get in.  That way I can stay out of the heat most of the time.  I can put a little ice chest in my car and carry the "cooler" so that when I'm out in the heat I have a way to keep relatively cool. 

As long as I complain, my life is just about noticing what I don't like instead of noticing all the good around me.  That attitude is self-pity whether I like the term or not.

Monday, December 24, 2012

The Negativity Diet

One of the benefits of living alone and journaling every day is that the ideas that pop into my head often get recorded - if they seem to be useful.  I love the practice of having whole days devoted to a particular spiritual practice because the main obstacle to my spiritual growth is my bad memory.  I forget that my purpose in this part of my life is to try to enlarge my spiritual condition.  So, yesterday I had what I thought was a bright idea and since it stayed with me until this morning, I decided to record it and try it. 

Central to my spiritual practice is to pay attention to my thoughts since unbeknownst to me, my crazy thinking often dictates my behavior.  What a disaster that can be!  The idea I recorded this morning was to have a whole day devoted to eliminating negativity from my thinking - specifically: 
  • no criticism or judgment of other people.
  • not talking about anybody not in the room (unless it's not gossip).
  • not trying to get my way about anything. 
Cool, I thought.  A really good practice.  Then I remembered that the idea really came from a little 12th Step pamphlet called, "Just for Today."  Well, okay.  Not an original idea.  But still a great one!!!

The fourth thing that came to mind is how much more I need to practice taking responsibility for having a wonderful time every day.  I spent way too many years being a leaf in the wind; letting whatever happened each day and whether I liked it or not, determine whether I had a good or a bad day.  Every morning when I wake up I have forgotten completely who is responsible for having a wonderful day.  Maybe I could tatoo this on the palm of my hand. 

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

clutter is magnetic!

Once I leave "stuff" on a surface, the next thing I know, there's a whole lot more "stuff."  This is particularly true on my kitchen table and kitchen cabinets.  It happens so quickly it's like magic.  In less than an hour I can cover up every surface.  It's all stuff I want to do something with but just not right now.  So today I'm going through piles and doing something with it all.  It's not going to be finished today either.  Probably going to be several days.  Grrrr.

Sunday, November 25, 2012

I am Loving Simplicity and Intentiion More and More

I am the queen of clutter working toward being a minimalist.  Ever so often I notice that "stuff" has piled up everywhere again.  Back in 2000 we had a fire which pretty much wiped us out.  Our insurance let us replace the necessities but we didn't replace "stuff" so the house was almost minimalist.  It only took a couple of months for things to be cluttered again. 

Periodically I clean everything out.  I did that last spring and had a garage sale.  It's time to do that again!  It's mysterious.  I seem to have twice as many books as I did a few months ago.  Some of that is due to Amazon sending me emails about books I might like for ridiculously small prices, the friend who donated to the garage sale - several boxes of books, many of which I couldn't wait to read.   Okay, it's not mysterious.

The shelves in my room and in my bathroom have a whole bunch of stuff.  My desk is covered with this and that.  I have little and big piles of things on the floor of my office.  I am a very lucky woman because I know what to do.  Every day I will pick out a section of one of my rooms and sort the "stuff" into three piles:  1) throw away 2)  put away 3) sell or give away.  Little by little I will be back to minimalist again.

The thing is, I want to stay that way.  So now I get to figure out how to do that.  I think the answer is going to be to sort everything that comes into my house into those three piles on a daily basis,

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Why I don't Change When I'm Sure I Want To

I'm really sure about the changes I want to make in my life.  I've never lied to myself about it - not even for one moment.  But somehow...

I think this problem might be universal from what I hear from other people.  Women I share with in the program surely have this problem.  It's really our only problem.  Some of those women are dealing with problems that tear them apart on a daily basis.  The problems are solvable but they don't take the action.

I think that there are a few people in the world that actually decide to make changes in their lives and do it.  So why do they succeed and I don't?

Here's my guess about what I think are the main reasons -

  • We don't realize there are solutions.  Somehow we've come to believe that our problems are caused from outside ourselves and so we don't realize WE can make the changes that would solve the problems.  Our egos don't want us to believe we're responsible for our lives.

  • We don't have the tools or the support to take action.  Somehow we've come to believe that we should already know how to do everything even though we've never had the information needed.  Somehow we've come to believe that we should solve our problems without help.  (A lot of us think we're getting help when we complain incessantly about our problems to other people.  This is a big mistake.)

  • We haven't suffered enough to be motivated to take action.  A lot of us have a huge tolerance for pain.  We live with problems that would kill someone else, and we don't even notice because we've gotten used to it.  In the past I've actually gotten kind of comfy with being a wreck all the time.

  • Last but not least, we don't care enough about ourselves to make the needed changes.  Somehow we've come to believe that we are just basically unworthy.  This was never true, but until we dig through those beliefs and clean up our past mistakes as best we can, we will not believe in our worthiness.
 So what's the solution?  For me it's been daily working the principles of the program.  In the program we talk about recovery being like peeling an onion.  Little by little as I work at it daily, I come to see the truth and am able to take baby steps toward change.

Thursday, November 08, 2012

Being Temporarily Disabled Instead of Retired

For the past year I've had a 32 year old roommate.  She "ran away from home" (a difficult situation in her marriage) and eventually went through a divorce.  Now that her life is settled, she'll be moving into her own place at the end of this month.  There were many valuable and enjoyable experiences because she was here, but one of the most surprising ones for me was that I got to see my life from the point of view of someone who goes to school (for her master's degree) and works part time.  Every day when she breezes in from her busy life, she asks me what I did that day.  Very difficult question for me to answer.

After being asked that question every day for awhile and trying to figure out what the answer was, I finally figured it out:  What I do all day is all the things I used to do in the evening or on the weekends when I had a very challenging full-time job.  But errands, personal business, etc.  take up all my time now.  It's very weird. 

I never intended to retire.  I thought that was a stupid concept developed in a time when people were decrepit at age 65.  I watched other people retire and thought they had incredibly dull and meaningless lives.  There's only so much "traveling" you can do.  I'm not into golf and other retirement-type stuff.  I did think that volunteering looked fun.  The last two organizations I worked for utilized huge numbers of volunteers for very important work and a whole lot of them were retired people.   At the same time it seemed silly to me to quit working for money and start working for free.

So I decided to keep working at least until I was 72 and then get a part time job so I could relax a little but not too much.  I looked forward to just hanging out with my husband which I could never get enough of.  Of course, like everything in life, it didn't turn out the way I had it planned in my head.  As a result of the wreck we were in, he left the earth and I was left with this less than able body.

For several years I did my utmost to work like I always had.  Boy, was that ever a dumb idea!  My body would not cooperate.  I tried to work at my full time job.  Couldn't do it.  Tried to work part time.  Couldn't do it.  Tried to just work a little bit.  Couldn't do that.  So I quit and took training to be a life coach and began writing my memoir.  I had one or two coaching clients.  I did several classes for people in recovery and took some writing classes.  I did quite a bit of writing on my memoir.  But eventually my body refused to do any of that, so I focused on doing everything I could to heal my body and my psyche.

All the work I did to heal definitely helped and I am greateful to be able to do what I'm able to do.  But still I'm only just getting by.  It's a hard thing to accept.  I do have quite a few responsibilities - I have a son and daughter who are adults now but who have very severe disabilities.  I am their guardian as well as for my daughter's roommate.  That's not a huge responsibility but it does require time and thought.  I'm also sponsoring several women as part of my recovery program.  This can be pretty challenging since people in recovery often have very difficult problems and my job is to help them figure out how to use the tools of the program to solve them.  And then I also do quite a few things to continue my own recovery which includes three or four meetings a week, reading program literature, step work, etc. 

So I've arrived at the point where I just have to answer the question, "What did you do today?" with - a whole lot of just stuff.  I don't like it but my job right now is to learn even more acceptance.  I still don't want to be retired so I still answer questions about what I "do" that I'm a life coach and writing a memoir. I say that I'm temporarily disabled.  And I am working on getting really good at prioritizing so that with what ability I have I use it for those things that are absolutely the most important to me.

Saturday, October 27, 2012

Radical Acceptance

Let's see now - I've been practicing the principles of the program on a daily basis for over 29 years.  You would think I would have reached enlightenment by now.  But...  On the other hand, I'm certainly a lot more mellow than I used to be.  As we say, "it's progress, not perfection."  The thing is, one of the principles is that there really are no problems; that everything in our lives is meant for our good.  With gritted teeth, people say, "Grrrr!  Another growing experience!" 

I've alway accepted the truth of this principle, but I still reacted emotionally to almost everything that happened that I didn't like.  I hate to say anything in case I'm wrong but I think I'm actually beginning to see how my attitudes and judgments about any experience I'm having cause any negative emotions I might have.  If I imagine that I have an opposite attitude about an experience than my usual "this is bad" reaction, I can often see where the good is in the experience.  I'm telling you what, it's a very weird feeling!

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Daily Work

I heard in a meeting a few months ago - "When I go to sleep at night, everything I've learned in the program falls out of my head and I have to start all over when I wake up!"  I immediately knew that I had the same problem.  I cannot even skip one day of working my program or I immediately find myself dealing with my old self and my old ideas.  This problem is very hard to describe.  But let me take a shot at it.

For example:  my ego is still bigger than I'd like it to be which means that I can still get my feelings hurt by something someone else says or does. Right away my mind starts planning how I can protect myself.  However, my program says that it's pointless to get upset with someone who's trying to grow up just like I am.  When I remember that, I stop being upset.  We're all imperfect and accidentally step on each other's toes.  Sometimes we even do it on purpose with the intent of hurting.  However, when someone does that to me, it's a reflection of their fear and is not necessarily about me.   My job is to watch my own behavior.  I really have nothing to fear from other people.

Sunday, October 07, 2012

National Novel Writing Month

November is national novel writing month.  I can't remember where I heard about it but it was at least two years ago.  It's a not-very-serious effort by thousands of people to write a 50,000 (at least) word novel from November 1 through November 30.  That's a little over 1,666 words per day.  No one is working on a great, beautifully written novel; they're just writing a draft of a novel.   There's a website that explains what few little rules there are - nobody else's writing but your own, nothing you've written before (it all has to be written in November although you're allowed to have an outline and have done some research), and do not write the same word over and over 50,000 times. 

The website says that about 40,000 people finished a novel in 2011.  On November 1st there were a bunch of middle school teachers, mechanics, out of work actors, etc. and on December 1st there were a bunch of novelists.  For the rest of their lives they can brag that they've written a novel.  All of the novels are posted on line.

I'm thinking it's a great way to establish a daily writing habit without any pressure except to get the words on paper.  I'm thinking I will sign up.

Monday, September 24, 2012

Furry Angel

When we were going to counseling - my attempt to get Ron to take better care of his health so that he wouldn't die which didn't work at all - the counselor had a pitiful-looking, skinny grey tabby that was the friendliest cat we had ever met.  Ron told the counselor that she should feel guilty about having this cat in her office where he had to stay all alone at night and on weekends.  He kept guilting her until she finally gave us the cat named Cisco.

Ron was always bringing home animals he'd talked people out of because he thought they weren't taking the best care of them.  I love animals too so it was fine with me.  But this scrawny little cat had to be the best one he'd ever rescued.  I'm sure Cisco thought he was an angel sent to earth to unconditionally love as many people as possible - which is what he set out to do.  He sat at the door as soon as he heard footsteps coming toward the door.  As soon as someone came in, he greeted them in melodious tones that sounded like human speech and stood on his hind legs with a front paw extended.

For the last months of Ron's life, Cisco spent much of his time on Ron's lap, rubbing his face on Ron's, seeming to love him as much as he could all day long. I got a little bit jealous because Ron kissed Cisco on the top of the head many, many times a day and I would have liked that many kisses myself.  Ron said Cisco required at least 100 kisses a day.  Cisco slept between us at night and kissed both of us off and on through the night.  Overnight visitors were treated to visits from Cisco in their beds too.  He tried to spread himself out among all the sleepers so that everyone got a small love fest.

The main trouble with all this love was that Cisco had the worst bad breath in history.  (I can't prove it, but I'm still sure it's true.)  He was a rescue cat and apparently someone had shot him in the throat, food caught there and...well you will just have to imagine the result.  I got used to it and some other people did too, but others had to hold their breaths while being kissed.  It was a definite drawback for some, but not for me.  The same injury caused him to throw up a lot so every day it was necessary to clean up the spots.  Eventually I would have to have the carpets cleaned.  That might have been a drawback for some, but not for me.

He seemed to eat normally but never gained an ounce.  So I tempted him with tuna, salmon and other cat treats.  These usually made him throw up more, so I quit trying to get him to gain weight.  I took him to two different veterinarians trying to find out if there was anything wrong because he was so skinny and the bad breath thing.  After a thorough exam, both vets said that for a cat that looked so sick, he was in terrific shape.

I didn't know this but apparently vets can tell the exact age of a cat by looking at the inside of their eyes.  I was told by both the vets that examined him that Cisco was a lot older than we thought.  By the time I was told this he was already almost ten years old.  Very slowly he began to show signs of age.  The first thing that happened was that he stopped running to the door to greet people.  Then he stopped grooming himself and that really scared me.  I took him right to the vet who just said that he was old and to use "cat wipes" every day and brush him.  So I took that responsibility off his shoulders. 

During the year that he stopped grooming himself, the vet said that he was in kidney failure and later told me he was in liver failure also.  The good news was that the bad breath went away and so did the throwing up.  But he took less and less interest in anything but love.  Finally he left us a few days ago.  I guess he thought we had had all the unconditional love we needed.

Monday, September 17, 2012

Sleep Journeys

I think my brain is put together incorrectly.  Luckily I have lots and lots of friends with the same problem so I get plenty of understanding and sympathy. Until I surrendered to the reality that I've got a messed up brain, I never felt like I got enough sleep.  In my early adulthood I had trouble staying awake at work in the afternoon.  I went to the doctor at least once or twice a year to find out why I felt tired all the time.  They always ran all kinds of tests, found nothing and sent me home with sympathy.   Oddly, I was never asked how much sleep I was getting.  I was busy and had small children as well as a job, and believed I should be able to get by on five or six hours of sleep.  Not only did I feel exhausted; I felt guilty about it too.  I just knew I was a loser.

Eventually I found that cola and coffee would keep me going and consumed a whole lot of both.  That habit led to trouble getting to sleep at night.  By that time I also had some young foster children that didn't sleep well at all.  From about 2:00 a.m. to 4:00 a.m. one or more of them was awake.  By the time I was in my late 30s, there had been four tragic deaths in my family and I learned that grief makes it hard to sleep and makes you tired at the same time.

By the time of the wreck in 2005 when I lost my husband and was severely injured myself, I had developed a very erratic sleeping pattern.  My husband had armed himself with sleep masks and ear plugs so that he could sleep through my restlessness.  I had tried a lot of things to solve the problem - relaxation tapes, "sleep hygiene," prayer, depriving myself of sleep until I could sleep through the night, etc.   I had learned that the best remedy was to walk three miles every day at the fastest pace I could.  Then I developed back problems and wasn't able to do that anymore. 

Sometime in there I began to hear about post traumatic stress disorder and I thought I might have it, although it seemed war veterans were the ones most troubled with it.  A counselor I saw confirmed that I probably had had ptsd since childhood and that that was probably my major problem rather than the depression I had been diagnosed with previously.  Of course, the traumas I experienced as an adult just intensified it.

After the wreck I eventually had to stop working.  I hated to do it because I really loved my job, but I could not predict when I would be able to go to work.  Right after the wreck and continuing for months afterward, I would be suddenly unable to get out of bed.  Part of me felt guilty about it and part of me knew I really didn't have a choice.  Finally the person I was seeing for energy work casually mentioned that I was experiencing dissociation - a defense against overwhelming stress.  He explained that people who had ptsd often had it.  I had always thought dissociation was a form of psychosis so being told I had it was pretty scary.

It was explained to me that dissociation was a very effective defense mechanism in that when a person's nervous system had had all it could process, it just shut down and the person had to rest until his or her nervous system could finish processing it.  Trauma can be cumulative and so the more trauma experienced, the more likely it is a person will have ptsd and as a result, dissociation.  That information made me feel a little bit better but only a little bit.  My ego really wants me to be "tough" and undamaged by life - superior to other people, that is.  Hmmm.

In the past few years the best advice I've gotten from people who know, is to rest when I need to;  to honor my defenses and let go and let God.  So I work at doing that.  I feel better and more rested than I ever have in my life.  I have learned that there are people in the world who think sleeping and resting as much as you need to is crappy self-discipline and that people like me are just lazy and making up excuses for being lazy.  I hate to look bad.  My ego hates it, is more accurate.  So being judged by others is the biggest barrier to following the good advice. 

Nevertheless, I do my best each day to honor my body's needs.  Sometimes that means I sleep through the night and am able to get up early and still not need to sleep during the day.  Sometimes it means I'm restless at night and sleep later and still need to sleep in the afternoon.  The blessing I get is that I am healthier, stronger, and more emotionally stable than I have ever been. 

Thursday, August 30, 2012

Trip Notes

It's a wonderful thing to be able to travel through Montana, Utah, Washington, most of California, New Mexico, Arizona, and Oklahoma from the big sky country of Montana to the cool of the Pacific northwest, the beauty of the Pacific coast, the Rocky Mountains, the high desert and the big sky country of Oklahoma.  This was a trip I have absolutely always wanted to make and, thanks to Eric, was able to do it.  He did all the driving in his Prius so I just sat back and looked at the sights.  What a wonderful gift! 

We took our time so that we could rest when we got tired.  Sometimes we stopped at rest stops and took naps.  Sometimes we checked into lodgings at 3:00 in the afternoon.  Sometimes we didn't get on the road until 11:00 a.m.  We used my iphone to search for restaurants that had fresh vegetables and fruit which meant that I got home 3 pounds lighter than when I left.  Our country is so big and so varied that being in awe of what I saw became a normal way to be. 

I made a list of what I learned at the Grandmother's gathering.  The major thing was that ceremony and ritual seem to be the most effective way of healing trauma.  One of the attendees at the gathering was a clinical psychologist who is Northern Cheyenne and a professor at the University of Montana.  He is also the author of a novel - "The Buddha in Redface."  It is his contention that "generational trauma" can be inherited and that many of the difficulties native people face now result from the trauma  their ancestors experienced when the Caucasions took over their lands.  Many native people simply died out completely.  But the concept is that anyone can use the power of ceremony to heal. 

What came to my attention is that I still carry the fear that as a woman I am always at risk in the world and that I need healing from that fear.  This became even more vivid when I got home and watched some of the news.  I had thought that much of the negative beliefs about women had changed except for a very few people.  It turns out that, for example, many, many people apparently believe that a woman cannot get pregnant from rape.  If she does get pregnant, it means that she is lying about being raped and wasn't really forced.  Oh my God!  I really got in touch with the fear that's been with me all my life.  For sure this is something I must deal with - ceremony and ritual coming up.

I learned a tremendous amount about Native beliefs.  I didn't know, for example, that prior to 1978 it was illegal for natives to practice their religion.  Of course, the religious practices went "underground" so the ceremonies and language still exist in most of the larger tribes, but have been pretty much completely lost in the smaller tribes.  These losses have devastated people collectively and individually because they've lost their foundation and connection with God although they have tried to connect with the mainstream religions. 

I learned that recovery groups are the same pretty much everywhere.  There is so much peace in entering a room filled with strangers in a strange town and feeling immediately at home and safe.  The same principles and heart-felt love are present.

Thanks to Eric's suggestion, I plan to put my wheelchair back in to use occasionally.  We missed going to the boardwalk in Santa Cruz because it would have been a very long walk and I simply could not do it.  If I had had my wheelchair I could have done it.  So when I got home, I stripped everything unnecessary off my wheelchair and plan to use it when I have to go long distances so I can save myself for fun!

We stayed at a resort in Montana that has pools filled with hot spring water and Eric suggested (?) that I try walking in the hot and warm water.  Sure enough, I felt wonderful being able to walk without difficulty or pain and the effects lasted for almost a week.  I was able to walk on dry land without pain or stiffness.  So off I go to join the YWCA with a heated pool and hot tub.

All in all the trip was an amazing experience.  The downside was that my beloved companion, Cisco, got very sick while I was gone.  He hasn't been well for some months now.  The vet tells me that he is in kidney and liver failure and there's no cure.  Tammy took him to the vet who gave him antibiotics and an IV so he was better when I got home.  However, he is still sick and getting sicker.  It looks like it's almost time for him to cross the rainbow bridge.  I can only be grateful for the ten plus years he has showered me (and anyone who comes in my house) with unconditional love.

Friday, August 24, 2012

More trip pics

Coast line seen from the Pacific coast highway.
Me at another location on the coast.  And then Eric at the same location.
Our first sight of the ocean up close.
Here we are after a  little wading in the sea at Seaside, Oregon.  If I look damp, it's because a waist high wave followed some little ones and knocked me down.
I believe this is Mount Rainier in the distance.

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

More trip pix

Sunset on the journey
Same sunset at a rest stop in New Mexico
Mountain in the distance - forgot its name.
Another view of the sky at the rest stop.
Painting on the fence of the vegetarian restaurant where we ate in Sedona.
More Sedona landscape
More beautiful Sedona
This one has a name:  Bell something.
Wonderful sky with clouds.
Elephant seals on the shore.
Great big fat male elephant seal.
Here we are on the shore where the elephant seals are.
Just for fun - bee in a flower.
Gorgeous shoreline.

Sunday, August 19, 2012

Trip Pix

First stop - Lame Deer, Montana, for the 13 Grandmothers' Gathering.  The grandmothers are shaman's (healers) from indigenious people all across the world - examples:  New Zealand, South America, Africa, Nepal....  Four days of prayer for the healing of the planet and the people.
Painting on a building in Lame Deer where the gathering was held.

Lunch at the Grandmother's gathering - under one of the arbors built for the occasion.
Leaving the gathering

Finishing up the painting.  The artist painted this all during the gathering on a piece of canvas he stretched between the poles of the arbor near the tipi where he camped.

Sunset on the way to Spokane

Our friend, Dick's, backyard in Spokane.  Beautiful, cool, green.

Backyard barbeque at Dick's.

Gorgeous scenery in Oregon - on the way to the Pacific.

Seattle where we stopped for Eric to buy a kilt.

First sight of the Pacific.

Bridge into Oregon.

Saturday, August 18, 2012

Stuff I don't have time for anymore...

A long time ago there was a guy in the recovery world who was elderly and ill.  He had a lot of respect from most who knew him for telling the exact truth and for his knowledge of living in recovery.  He used to tell people who asked him for help that he was old and sick and didn't have time to try to help people who wanted to mess around.  He said he only had time to help people who were willing to work hard.

I remember thinking that he was wise to think about how he wanted to use the time he had left.  Now that I'm over 70 myself, I've begun to think about my time in a different way.  It's the little stuff that eats up time, so I'm looking first at that.  For example, I've never been big on perfection in my housekeeping or my personal appearance, so taking even less time on those items is not a stretch for me.  Also, being more organized about errands means less time and less gas. 

On a grander scale, I've decided I don't have time to keep up with politics.  Ever since I was old enough to vote, I've worked hard at understanding issues, being familiar with candidates and felt like I did a fairly good job of being a responsible voter.  Recently, however, the rhetoric is so wild, I can't imagine that anyone really knows what's going on.  I will keep my voter registration current, but I don't have time to run to the polls every time there's an election when it doesn't seem to matter how I vote.  I will still take part in the political process assuming I can find effective ways, but trying to educate myself is something I don't have time for since I don't think it matters.

A very long time ago, I decided to believe in and live by the principle taught me in my recovery program - that the best thing for me to do is do what's best for me - when I do what is best for me it will be best for everyone else even if they don't think so.  I've done my best with this but it's been hard because I was socialized to sacrifice for others - that's what a good woman does.  I wasn't very good at that either, but it was my guiding light even if I didn't do well at it.  So when I did what was best for myself and other people were angry and didn't approve, I felt bad and guilty and wanted to make them happy.  It never worked though.  Once they were mad, they just seemed to stay that way.  So I've decided I don't have time anymore to worry about it when people get mad at me.  I wish I could please all of the people all of the time - especially the people I love, but I believe that's not possible even if I put my best efforts into it.

I also have no time to go shopping.  I have everything I need and pretty much everything I want.  From time to time I want new underwear but I order that online.  If I go in a store I'm sure to see something I want but won't want in a few days after I buy it because I will have to find a place to put it and will have to dust it or take care of it in some other way.  I just don't have time.

I also don't read a lot of my email.  I've notified a lot of people/businesses not to send me email but they keep doing it anyway.  I also don't check my email or Facebook very often.  I just don't have time. 

I talk too much.  Always have.  My new realization is that people aren't really interested in my babbling.  If they were, they would probably ask me a question.  I think people are much more interested in having a listener.  So I've decided I don't have time for all the talking I used to do.  Of course, I also don't have time for some kinds of listening - it seems to me that we all complain a lot.  We have all kinds of opinions about how things ought to be and we seem to believe we're experts in how things ought to be.  In actuality, we have absolutely no idea how things ought to be.  Only God knows that.  So taking time to complain or listen to complaints is a complete waste of the time I have left on the planet.

Getting mad/irritated/pissed/or whatever is off my list of things I have time for.  When I experience any of those feelings it's because I want my own way (my ego).  It's useless to spend time nurturing my self-righteousness - it's just a sign that I'm making someone else responsible for my happiness.  Of course there may be times when someone is doing something or not doing something that actually adversely affects me and I will need to ask them for what I want.  If they don't want to, it will then be up to me to solve the problem myself.  I can always simply stay away from people who don't have my well-being in their hearts. 

I've been thinking a lot about what I've learned and how simple it all is when it's not cluttered up with my ego and wanting to be right and wanting to have what I want.  I don't have time for complications any more.  I heard someone say in a meeting where the topic was self-esteem that she had very low self-esteem but was well defended by her self-righteousness.  I believe most of the complications I create are caused by my self-righteousness.  I really don't have time for defending my self-esteem by being self-righteous.  My self-esteem is best served by living the best way I can - especially when time is short.

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

How to Forgive Someone When You're Still Mad

All those spiritual gurus tell us that forgiveness is the answer to everything. 

When I first began to hear this I was in my 20s.  It irritated me.  I thought that the idea was nice for highly evolved spiritual people but I knew I wasn't one of them so it didn't apply to me.  I had no desire to be a highly evolved spiritual person.  I wanted to love and be loved, have enough money to be able to buy what I needed and some of what I wanted, and to have my children be happy.

In my 30s I was deeply devoted to being angry about all the injustices in the world - those done to me and those done to anyone.  I was in fight mode.  Forgiveness was not of interest to me at all.  In fact, if you mentioned it, I exploded and sent you somewhere else.  I was shocked at the suffering in the world.  People seemed to be bent on being cruel to each other.  Sometimes people seemed to be cruel to me.  I had no idea what to do about any of it except be angry and complain incessantly.  My life had become very, very difficult and as time went on I just wanted someone to help me.

In my 40s I began to have a crack in my closed mind, but only because I had made myself so miserable with being furious all the time that I was almost willing to listen.  I was desperate enough to concede that being so angry had not made my life better in any way and that maybe I would be better off with another way of living.  Kind of against my will I had accepted a spiritual teacher.  She was kind and sweet which were the only reasons I could tolerate her at all.   She kept saying things that I thought meant she was telling me my miserable life was all my fault.  But what she was really telling me was that I had the power to change my life and just didn't realize it.  But then she brought up the forgiveness thing.  I thought I was surely lost because I was not going to be able to do that - not even to get out of the misery I was in.

She dished out cliches like "When you stay angry with someone, you give them free rent in your head."  And "Staying angry with someone is like taking poison and hoping the person you're mad at will die."  I had no idea what she was talking about.  What finally got my mind open a bit was when we talked about the very real fact that I had made a lot of mistakes in my life that hurt other people.  I had to concede that that was right.  I knew I was very, very imperfect and one of the people I was maddest at was myself.  She pointed out that I could take action to make those mistakes as right as I possibly could and then let myself off the hook - but for it to work, I had to let everyone else off the hook.  I still resisted.  I was willing to do my best to make my mistakes right, but I didn't see why I had to forgive anybody but myself.

Finally, she brought out the big guns.  We talked about specific incidences where I felt victimized and helpless.  We prayed about what I could have done had I had the information and help that was available to me now.  I was totally amazed!  There were all kinds of solutions that I hadn't been able to see through my anger.  With her help I began to see that my fury kept me from seeing the solutions that were actually within my power.  Little by little I saw that it was a delusion that I was helpless, and I realized that all that anger was really coming from fear because I thought I was helpless.

She pointed out that I had always had a God that was looking out for me and that always would look out for me - not by making my life easy but by presenting me with ways to learn how to live in the world in peace.  She said I was angry all the time because I had the delusion that by being angry, I was doing what I could to protect myself, but that was a delusion too.   Since I didn't have to protect myself in that way, that I could let go of my condemnation of the people I was angry at even though I still thought they were wrong, I was willling to forgive them and let it go.  Of course, my anger disappeared as I realized that I was not helpless in the world.  But I was able to forgive and still be angry for awhile.

I still get angry when someone mistreats me - in my opinion.  I still get angry about injustice.  The difference is that I no longer feel helpless.  Slowly over time I've begun to realize that those people are probably angry because they are afraid just like I was.  That new perspective lets me look for solutions that positive and unjudgmental.  Not, of course, that I'm always able to do it, but most of the time, with prayerful thought, I can get there.

Friday, July 13, 2012

Okay! I Really Mean It This Time

For most of my life I was skinny except for a tiny while in my teens when I was addicted to grape pop and barbequed potato chips.  Until around 1957 when those came out I had never seen such things and I fell in love at once.  Of course, I soon was a lot rounder than the bony thing I had been before.  When I was 18 I started smoking and continued until I was 43.  By that time I was smoking five packs a day which is really hard.  I had to smoke in the shower, smoke a couple of times in the middle of the night.  It would be impossible now to smoke five packs a day and do anything else since there's no smoking almost everywhere.  Back then you could stilll smoke in college classes, in the movies, and on airplanes.  The haze of tobacco smoke was everywhere where I worked.  But I went to the doctor for a check up and he said that my heart was stopping for periods of time, probably due to my smoking, and that if I didn't quit in the next 30 days he was going to put me in the hospital where I would have to quit.  So I went to one of those "stop smoking classes" and quit.  It was hell.  I compensated by eating and promptly gained 60 pounds.

At first I was kind of happy about having curves for the first time in my life and I thought it was kind of funny that parts of me jiggled when I walked.  But soon I didn't like how I looked and went to Weight Watchers.  I learned what foods had how many calories in them and how to eat.  After a fierce battle with myself I lost almost all of the weight and kept it off for a couple of years.  Then I got a sit down job with a lot of stress and snacks in the office.  I promptly gained the weight back and have been fighting with it ever since. 

Now I'm back to square one.  I have high blood pressure and have had for several years.  I've managed to talk my doctor out of putting me on high blood pressure medications by promising to lose weight.  But recently I've been having dizzy spells and had to go to a new doctor who says he's not waiting for me to lose weight.  So I'm on blood pressure medication which also makes me dizzy.  So I really mean it this time - I went to Weight Watchers and am losing a little weight slowly.  I hate counting "points" so I'm eating a low carb diet (which includes regular exceptions).  I've lost about 5 pound in a month and a half.  I've got 25 more to go.  I really do mean it this time.

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Pix - June was a busy month for celebrations

 Thien's teddy bears being cared for by in-laws during the honeymood.  Well taken care of.
Slide from Bec's graduation party.  Loved the slides.

Cisco keeping me company during my morning meditation.

First bouquest from the Farmer's Market
Pix - 3 above from Bec's graduation party.
Tammy's decorations for my birthday.
Eric's reunion with Cisco.
Remains of the birthday present wrapping.
Liz and Fred at the graduation party.
Girls at the graduation party.
Tammy wrapping Kristin's birthday present.
Kristin unwrapping her present.

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Say It Now!

I've had several deaths of people close to me, and recently I've been to several funerals.  You would think that the person who died was the most wonderful person ever put on the earth from the things people say.  They usually throw in some not so good stuff for contrast but it's never very much.  It always occurs to me that it's a shame we don't say this stuff to people while they're alive.

 I was going to write a letter to the person I called my spiritual mother telling her how much she meant to me.  However, she died before I got around to it.  Not a good feeling.  So now I think it would be wonderful if we wrote those letters as soon as we think of it.  For one thing, I never been close to anybody who didn't suffer at least a little from feeling "not good enough."  My letter might be just the thing to make their whole world a good bit better.

Sunday, June 17, 2012


As I talk to people in recovery, I've learned that the newer they are in recovery, the more trouble they have revealing who they really are.  They often believe that the secrets they're holding on to are worse than anyone else's and that if anyone ever knew, they would be shunned by the world.  I think the word for this is shame because when they finally get around to telling somebody so that they don't have to carry the weight of those secrets around, they find that a lot of them are exactly the same as a lot of people's secrets and just evidence that they are imperfect humans.  

Of course, there are other secrets they have that involve hurting other people and violating their own values.  But that's guilt.  The only remedy for that is to do whatever they can to right the wrong.  A simple apology is not enough.  Many people have to go to extreme lengths to right the wrong.  I knew a guy who paid back money he owed and it took him over twenty years to get it done.  Another man served time in prison for a crime he confessed to after he got into recovery. 

In either case, when we tell the truth about ourselves to ourselves, to God and to another person and do everything we can to right any wrongs we've done, we are free.  Nothing feels like that freedom - to be who we are.  The saddest thing in the world is those that stay stuck in their shame because of mistakes they've made that cause them to greatly fear being judged, when the mistakes are just those of a normal human being.  The only way we can find that out, though, is to tell the truth.

Wednesday, June 13, 2012


In my family growing up we didn't celebrate birthdays.  The only time I remember having birthday cake and presents was when I was 16 and my Aunt Gladys was visiting.  She insisted on cake and presents and she made a "sweet 16" thing to hang on my wall.  It had 16 sugar cubes tied with ribbons and I was thrilled with it.  Since then, I've made sure that I celebrated my birthday whether anyone else remembered it or not.  This year was especially nice since my friend who lives with me, postponed a trip to fill the living room with balloons and take me to dinner.  Then another friend came to visit and took me to lunch, a movie and dinner.  I'm celebrated out!  Today is my recovery anniversary - 29 years.  I am so grateful to be alive and to be in recovery and to have wonderful family and friends who wished me well this year.

Friday, June 08, 2012

Ceremonies and Rituals

I'm now a great believer in ceremonies and rituals.  I design and carry one out nearly every day.  That probably sounds excessive but it works like a witchy charm for me.  I learned about this as part of my recovery.  Most years I attend a women's retreat for women in recovery.  There are many rituals as part of the retreat but the big, important one is on Saturday night.  There's a long guided meditation followed by a ritual and ceremonious burning of a piece of paper on which we've written something we want to let go of.  We are told that when this particular thing comes to mind, remember that we let go of it and gave it to God.  This ceremony has been very effective in helping me let go of things that I was harming myself by holding on to.  Examples:  Resentments, fears, guilt, people who have died, people who are no longer in our lives for various reasons. 

The thing that sticks out in my mind is that rituals and ceremonies imbed in my memory what I've decided.  I suspect that our brains (or at least my brain) is hard wired to use ceremonies and rituals to help us remember and to give energy to our decisions that may be challenging to carry out.  Here's an example of a "generic" ritual I might use to support a decision/change I want to make in my life:  I light a scented candle and put on music that supports me.  I write out my decision in the form of a prayer.  If there's someone or something I want to say goodbye to, I write a goodbye letter.  I ask for guidance and power to carry out my decision and the change.  Somehow these little rituals continue to help me remember and carry out decisions.

Sunday, June 03, 2012


I can't remember exactly what brought this up again, but I read something that talked about the "drama triangle."  That's something a famous psychologist (whose name I can't remember) came up with in the 60s.  I can't draw a triangle on this I will have to describe it:  It's an upside down triangle with the one point at the bottom.  At the top points are "perpetrator" and "rescuer."  At the bottom point is the "victim."  According to psychological wisdom, most of us play these roles in rotation in our relationships and in our thinking.  A great many of us see ourselves as victims most of the time.  If you listen to people talking - any place - restaurants, in lines, in church - wherever - they're mostly complaining and if you're complaining, you are playing the role of a victim.  So sorry; there's no escape from that.  Think about it -  you've cast somebody or something in the role of perpetrator and you're looking for a rescuer.  The reason the perpetrator and rescuer are at the top of the triangle is because people who primarily play those roles see themselves as a cut above everybody else.  The perpetrator would not tell you that he/she was a perpetrator.  He/she would say that he/she was a victim, and the mean stuff he/she did to other people was revenge for how they victimized him/her.  They think those people just got what they deserved. 

I've been interested in these roles for many, many years.  I first was introduced to them when I was in therapy and was immediately horrified to realize I was stuck in that triangle with no idea how to get out.  I asked my therapist how to get out and he said all I needed to do was stop playing those roles.  Easier said than done.  Since then as I've worked with other people who were trying to grow spiritually and solve their problems, I've noticed that everyone I've worked with saw themselves as victims in one way or another.  The trouble with that is that if I'm a victim, I'm helpless and hopeless, because my problems are all caused by someone or something else.  I'm completely blind to the role I play in the situation and to all the myriad possibilities for solving the problem without anyone else having to do anything different.  It's extraordinarily hard to break out of those roles and it is a whole lot harder to convince someone else to see the truth - even when they've asked you for help. 

The payoff for stepping out of those roles is to be free of fear, guilt, anger, resentment and to see yourself as a capable, good person able to navigate this often difficult world and its difficult people with peace and occasional joy.

Friday, June 01, 2012


I have some of the most amazing dreams.  Some of them are so amazing I just have to record them.  This time I dreamed that I was married to one of my ex-husbands (again) and we decided to have more children.  Now mind you, I was 70 years old in my dream just like I am now.  So he was the one who got pregnant.  I told all my friends that I knew it was odd for people to have more children at our age, never even thinking that it was odd that he was the one that was pregnant.  By the way, we had twins.

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Smartest Person in the Room

There are a lot of us humans that think we are the smartest person in the room wherever we go.  It may be an illusion or it may be the truth.  The thing is that thinking that is a huge hazard!  What happens is that we begin to think everyone else is stupid and then the way we interact with them is condescending.  That does NOT make us popular.

I know a lot about this problem since I was told over and over as a kid that my best trait was that I was smart.  Somehow I translated that to mean that I was smarter than everybody else.  I was wrong about that, for sure.  Plus I learned that people are at different levels of smartness, but everybody knows and understands stuff that other people don't.  I've also learned to be patient with the other smartest people in the room who are shocked to find out that I don't know as much as they do.

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Don't Believe Everything You Hear

One of the things that really bothers me as I get older is how much stuff people believe that I'm fairly sure is not true.  This is especially true in politics - if my side says something bad about the other side, it must be true, right?  Not really.  However, the number of things that are not true that many, many people believe range far beyond politics.  Some things become "common knowledge."  People say, "Everybody knows that!" 

Since I have two adult children in my life that are cognitively disabled (used to be called mental retardation but it was changed because "retard" became such a bad word that was used to hurt people), I've heard a bunch of stuff that's supposedly "common knowledge."  For example, there are a lot of people in the medical profession and even people who work in the field who believe that people who are cognitively disabled don't feel physical pain like the rest of us.  I don't know about other people, but my adult children feel pain just like anyone else and have suffered a lot at the hands of people who believed they didn't need pain medication.  I've heard a lot of other very bad stuff too that I'm not going to repeat.  Most of it is designed to make people afraid of people with disabilities.

I think the root of these beliefs came from a belief system that was common in the first half of the 20th century.  When I was in college, some class I was in had a book that mentioned "eugenics."  When I read about it, I thought, "Boy those people sure were stupid to believe that stuff.  Glad no one believes that now."  Basically, eugenics was a belief and a movement that people could be bred like animals - and by doing so "defective people" could be eliminated.   The list of defective people went on and on - people (children) with disabilties especially those with cognitive disabilities, people with mental illness, Native Americans, African Americans, immigrants from Ireland, Italy, etc.; people who were convicted of a crime, alcoholics and addicts, poor people.  How the movement functioned to eliminate these people from the population was to sterilize both men and women.  The media worked to educate the public to report and/or capture children and adults and turn them in to be locked up and sterilized. 

Good grief!  How could this have happened in the 20th Century?  I have no idea.  In fact, Oklahoma still had a sterilization program for Native American women in the 1960s.  These practices are not so far away in time.  I would have thought that this stuff would have to be carried out on the fringes of society but the Rockefeller Foundation funded a lot of it, Winston Churchill was a proponent.  Also, Margaret Sanger and Theodore Roosevelt were proponents in the United States.  Oklahoma was the 30th state to pass a law mandating compulsory sterilization and institutionalization for "undesirables."  Sterilizations were carried out at the "Institution for the Feebleminded" in Enid, Oklahoma (a facility that still exists) and at the McAlester State Prison (also still in existence).  According to statistics kept by the federal Indian Health Care system, in the 1970s there were more sterilizations of Native American women than there were births at the Claremore Indian Hospital.

It's not a surprise that Hitler in Nazi Germany took up the crusade - he loved eugenics.  Of course, that led to the rounding up of Jews AND people with disabilities, gypsies, people in prisons, etc. and getting rid of them in gas chambers.  He was "purifying the Aryan race."  A lot of people in the rest of the world talk about this as a horrible, evil thing that Hitler did and how he must have been both evil and crazy and how awful it was that the people of Germany went along with it.  The thing is, right here in the United States of America we did something similar for half a century.  Odd how since World War II no one even mentions the eugenics movement.   However, I can see every day by how people talk about people with disabilities and minorities that there are still a lot of people who regard these groups as "defective."  It isn't that far a jump to start allowing people to die without medical treatment,etc.

The conclusion I reach is that I'm not believing the latest "scientific" research or philosophy, no matter how famous and credible it's proponents.  I'm taking everything with a grain of salt. 

Monday, May 14, 2012

Wedding Pix

Rehearsal Dinner

Vietnamese tradition - the groom's family gives the bride's family a pig.  Here it is - ready to be eaten!

Dad and groom

Rebecca, groom's sister, bride's mom and sister plus groom's grandad and wife in the background.

Bride's sister and boyfriend with bride's mom in the background taking a picture.

Rebecca and Jeremy
Groom, bride's mom and bride.

Groom's brother and date
Groom's brother looking sad because it's sparkling cider and not champagne
Pig after dinner.

Lynn, Uncle Sam and Anita waiting for the ceremony.  Uncle Mike looking at the door waiting for the wedding party to come out.

And here they come - Aaron, best man, Steve, Liz (groom's mom) escorting the groom.
Bridesmaids looking for the bride

Groom and chaplain waiting for the bride.

And the bride made it!

Jeremy and Bec
Bride and groom eating the fabuloous food.
And a good time was had by everyone!!!

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