Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Living in Solutions - Changing the Things I Can

When I started moving from feeling helpless to solve problems to living in solutions, it felt like a whole new planet and a whole new life.  I was excited because I learned that I am the one that can change in order to solve problems and I don't have to try fruitlessly to change someone else.  It's a pretty big challenge to change myself, but at least that method of problem-solving at least has a hope of actually happening!

So, the very first step in living in solutions is believing that I am capable of solving problems.  Even if I don't know what to do, there's a world of people and information that can help me if I just ask.  Luckily I was past the stage in life where I thought only weak people asked for help.  I was willing to admit to being weak if that was what it took.  I was beat.

The help I got was a combination of information and instruction on how to generate solutions.  The basic thing about generating solutions was to ask myself one question:  "How can I make this situation better or solve this problem WITHOUT trying to make anyone else change."

Saturday, September 20, 2014

Living in Solutions - Acceptance

For so much of my adult life I lived with what I thought were unsolvable problems.  That's a hellish way to live.  After I came into recovery, I learned that there are a possibly innumerable solutions to every problem a human being can have. 

Of course, the first step in problem-solving is to use the Serenity Prayer to determine whether the problem is something I can change: 

 "God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change; courage to change the things I can; and the wisdom to know the difference."

I need the perspective of another person to determine this - usually.  Sometimes it's pretty obvious and I can see it myself, but it's always a good idea to check it out with a wise person.  If it's really true that there's nothing I can do to change the situation, there's still a solution - ACCEPTANCE.

I had to learn the acceptance part of problem-solving before I could learn the rest.  Acceptance is the hardest.  But here's my personal "how to" for acceptance:

1) Stop telling myself that this shouldn't be happening.  All that kind of thinking does is make me angry and upset.  Instead I remember what my dad said after the tornado took his house: he first thought, "why me?"  Then he thought, "why not me?  Is there something special about me that should make me immune to disaster?"  So, I'm not immune to events I don't like.  I can let go of my feeling of being treated badly and remember that the whole of humanity experiences this and remember that compassion for myself and for everyone is comforting. 

2)Then, since there's nothing I can do to make it better, I turn my attention to something else and pray for a peaceful mind and heart.

Friday, September 12, 2014

Analyzing Fear

I've learned that taking a good look at what's causing my stomach to knot up is a terrific idea even if it's a little unpleasant at first.  When I don't look, fear starts running my life without my knowing it and without my permission.

Many of the things I've been afraid of in my life have just been leftover stuff from childhood - like being afraid of being alone, lost or abandoned. 

It's not actually dangerous for me to be by myself, for example.  I'm perfectly capable of taking care of myself.  It's nice to have companionship but it's not actually necessary. 

It's also impossible for me to be lost - I was only lost if I couldn't find my mother when I was a child.  Now, as an adult, I might not know exactly where I am, but I can put my wits to work to figure it out so I can get where I'm going. (GPS technology and maps really help with this.) 

It's also not possible for me to be abandoned.  It's only possible for a child to be abandoned.  I don't need a caregiver so I'm okay even if someone in my life decides to leave my life.  I will miss the people that come and go, but that's not about being abandoned.  I can abandon myself, however, by not taking care of myself. So I've learned to grow up and take care of me.

Then there are the fears that are related to the past.  I've made a lot of mistakes, and I lived with the fear that they would catch up with me and I would pay a price.  Then I was taught by my spiritual mentors that it was my job to make amends for those mistakes as best I could, and do my best to not make the same mistakes again.  Then I can let go of the fear.  If I have to pay a price, I can pay it knowing that I've done what I could to amend the mistake but that the price is just.

Of course, anxiety and worry about the future also plagued me and still can today.  What has helped the most with those is to remember that I've made it through a lot of scary stuff with the help of God and people I love.  So, there's no reason to believe that God and the people I love will quit on me now.  I've surrendered to the reality that scary stuff happens to everybody and that even if I do everything right (which isn't actually possible for human beings), I will still not be able escape difficulty.  I will be okay anyway. 

Those annoying Buddhists keep telling us that everybody gets sick, has disappointments, has to deal with events that are difficult,. If we're lucky to live long enough, we'll get old, and we're all going to die.  They tell us that the answer is acceptance and compassion.  Most of our upset comes from believing that stuff isn't supposed to happen.

So...the practice of analyzing fear has kept me almost fear-free for quite awhile.  That is a huge gift and I highly recommend the practice of facing fear instead of running away from it.

Tuesday, September 02, 2014

Simplicity and Clothes

I used to have an on-going source of misery in trying to figure out what to wear.  I was 100% unhappy with my clothes 100% of the time.  I went clothes shopping and tried on clothes and hated whatever I put on.  I bought something so I'd have something to wear.  I hated all of it.  I felt like a loser.  I felt ugly.  I felt stupid.  It all made me feel as if my body was defective because I thought I looked so strange in my clothes.

A few years ago I started tracking my spending.  I read that by tracking it as if you were the bookkeeper for someone else's business, you will become aware of when you're spending money that doesn't benefit you and when your spending does benefit you.  At the end of the year I added it all up and discovered I had spent a tremendous amount of money on clothes and didn't have a thing in my closet that I actually liked.  What I really wanted was the ability to travel, and I could have taken several lovely trips on the money I spent to buy clothes I didn't like.

So...I started buying used clothes and very cheap clothes since I didn't seem to be able to buy stuff I looked good in and actually liked.  What the hell - spend as little as possible.  To my surprise I found a bunch of clothes that I really liked and that I looked good in that were used. 

Eventually one of my friends told me about a store that sold clothes for middle-aged and older women that were beautiful, fashionable, that fit our body types, and that seemed to be indestructible - never wrinkling or wearing out. Those clothes were exactly what I had been hoping to find my whole life.  Flowing, beautiful colors, very basic blacks, etc.

So...for the past 20 years or so, I buy 90% of my clothes at that store.  I don't need to put much thought into what to put on every day because what's hanging in my closet is simple and already matched up.  I could simplify a little more, but that would take a little bit of the fun out of dressing myself.

Being able to stop worrying about what to wear, how I look and whether I'm dressed appropriately has opened up space in my mind and my time for other much more valuable things.

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