Sunday, December 22, 2013

A Life Centered Around Self-Love and Self-Caring

I was taught that a "good person" always put other people ahead of him/herself.  Of course, I was also taught that this was supposed to be even more true for women.  That putting yourself first, loving yourself, and self-care were bad - selfish attitudes that made you a bad person.

Those lessons led me to a place where I never got enough sleep, enough nutritious food, dental and medical care.  Funny thing - living like that created chronic anger without my really being aware of why I was so angry (and sad and fearful and totally overwhelmed).  I had nothing to give to anybody.  All I really wanted was a day off!

I mistakenly thought that the solution was for other people to take better care of me.  Then I landed in a recovery program because I was truly at the end of my rope.  They told me that well-intentioned people had simply taught me things that weren't true.  And that I was the one who was supposed to be taking care of myself. 

Since then I've been on a long, long, journey of learning how to take care of myself.  I began by doing the obvious things - food, rest, medical and dental care etc. 

Then I realized that I had developed a disdain for fun - that I believed that in deadly serious world with problems galore to be solved, taking any time for fun was just plain evil.  So I tentatively started to explore what I thought might be fun.  I discovered that as an adult I still liked to swing.  It's kind of embarrassing to go to the park and wait your turn with all the kids, but it was totally worth it.

So, now years later, I'm still practicing.  I'm not an expert at this yet.  But I can say that I continue to discover what, for me, a life centered around self-love and self-caring looks like. 

The basics of food, rest, exercise and medical and dental care continue to get better and better as I learn more.  I see the dentist four times a year and by so doing, my gum disease has been arrested.  I go for my annual check ups.  I get a flu shot.  I've studied nutrition tailored to a woman of my age with the health issues I have and I work at creating food that I love and that meets my needs.  With research and expert help, I have an exercise program that also meets my particular needs - a little bit of seated aerobics, modified yoga, strength training, and a lot of exercises to keep my core muscles strong. 

I've learned that treating other people the way I want to be treated usually causes other people to treat me well.  Even when it doesn't turn out that way, I'm okay because I've learned that people treat other people the way they treat themselves.  If they treat me badly, it's usually because their own self-care isn't good.  I've learned to listen better although I still need a lot of work in that area.  I've stopped trying to change people (usually) and just ask for what I want.  If they don't want to, I work on acceptance.  If people treat me badly, I ask them not to.  If they don't change, I put distance between us. 

I realized too that part of a life centered around self-care and self-love is to use my talents.  That's been a lot harder because I ran right up against my fear of being judged.  So now I'm working on growing a thicker skin.  I've taken classes and try to do something with my talents every day.

There was a little piece of the truth in what I was taught about giving to others.  It turns out that sharing with other people is also a way for me to take care of myself.  The thing is, it's important for me to give from a place of plenty - which I can do when I've taken care of my own needs first. 

Sunday, December 15, 2013

A Retreat Arranged by God

Snow days weren't a big deal when I was a kid.  Unless there was a sheet of ice on the roads, we just carried on.  Since I was an only child and we lived in the country, getting time off from school wasn't that exciting.  There weren't any other kids nearby and it was a time before television.

Later when my kids were home from school because of snow, I either had to go to work anyway or we found ways to entertain ourselves.  But it didn't really seem like a vacation.

In most recent years, I usually just carry on.  Unless there's a bunch of ice.  In my mind, it's more than a little bit wimpy to let snow scare you.  I've got front wheel drive on my car and I just carry on.

Last week when we had the blizzard of 2013, and the local stations were going on and on about the snow (we had four whole inches), it suddenly occurred to me that I could take a snow day.  I hadn't realized it before but God was giving me a gift - I could just check out of life until a melt!

It's probably just the stage of life I'm in, but I've been noticing that I enjoy quiet more than I ever have in my life.  Sometimes I feel like I'm recovering from a lifetime of scurrying around from this to that, in a noisy world, trying to stay out of trouble with other people. 

A blanket of white silence outside, the bright white light from the white outside coming through my windows had the unusual effect of quieting my mind and body.  I ate, slept, prayed, sat and thought, listened to music and read Winnie the Pooh.  When the melt came, I wasn't quite ready and so pretended to be snowed in for a couple more days.

Sunday, December 08, 2013

There is No Situation too Difficult to be Bettered and No Unhappines too Great to be Lessened

The closing that's read at the end of one of the recovery program meetings I attend contains the above sentence.  I love it because of its unfailing truth!

When I came into recovery I was in many, many very difficult situations and was extremely unhappy.  I felt hopeless and helpless.

Very gradually the people of the program showed me how my situations could be bettered and my unhappiness lessened.  That sounds like it was a lovely, delightful process.  But it wasn't.

I actually hated every minute of that process.  What I wanted was for them to tell me how to make the people change that I thought were causing my problems.  I had very detailed stories about how wrong those other people were.  But they didn't listen - they just pointed out that I had many possible solutions that did not involve anyone else changing but me.  I felt accused of being at fault.  I felt as if I was being told I should have already thought of the ideas they offered to me.  I was sure they just really didn't understand how innocent I was and how guilty those other people were.

I didn't begin to open my mind until I had truly had all the pain I could stand and then I thought I might try some suggestions even though I still felt as if they really just didn't understand.

Lo and behold!  Their suggestions worked.  Over time I've realized that my resistance was really my ego wanting to always be right and wanting to blame somebody else for my problems.

I've come to understand that whenever I'm blaming and complaining, it's my ego trying to shield me from my own harsh self-judgments.  I've forgotten that I am a child of God, with flaws but still a divine creation and that it's not my job to live in self-hate.

When I can (with the help of mentors) turn my attention to the question, "What can I do (with the help of God) to make my situation better," I find that I have many, many options for solutions and partial solutions. 

The unexpected outcome for me is that I actually have a good time solving problems now.  It's great entertainment.  Thanks to things like "Google" I have a world of ideas open to me!

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