Thursday, October 20, 2016

Emotional Storms - Clearing the air

We had a big storm here in case you happen to be on another planet.  I didn't have any damage to my property and enjoyed the extra couple of days off.  My long time friend stayed at my house for the worst of it and we produced some art until the sun went down and we ran out of light.

I decided the day before to bake some bread and the morning of the storm to make a chocolate cake. I figured if we had to go days without power nothing would be as satisfying as homemade bread and chocolate cake.  

We did lose power even before the storm was near but I didn't really mind that much.  I like the quiet and I knew it probably wouldn't be out for long.  The next morning everyone was out cleaning up their yards manually.  The sun was shining and you could really feel a sense of community.

The neighbors next door had their kids raking the yards of people that had evacuated.  They are good people and I imagine spending the night with three kids and a German Shepard wasn't exactly stress free. 

It was just the two of us and we were getting each others nerves a little bit. We did play Scrabble and I found I could play with a real person and win.  Until then I had only played the computer and wasn't sure I could play against a real person.

Lately I have felt something shifting inside.  Every since I returned from the wedding I feel different. I faced a few ghost there and was un-affected.  Before the storm my sister and I got into another discussion about my dad.  She said I would never have forgiven him even if he had asked to be forgiven. For a moment things got ugly. I said I would have accepted far less than an apology and I didn't appreciate her thinking she knew what I would or would not have done. 

She then ask if I was over it why was I still talking about it.  I told her because she was the only one that was there and the fact that she dismissed what was done to me as my imagination that I felt I had to defend myself. I said we did not have the same experience and that I have spent a big chunk of my life getting over it. She said she fought to have a relationship with him and I said I was too immature back then to think I needed to fight for a relationship with my own father.

I was surprised by this conversation but it really cleared the air.  I ended it by saying that if the stormed wiped me out that I could at least go in peace. We have of course talked since then.

We all think we know what other people are experiencing but that to me is like playing God and I have done it many times. We think we can give them advice and make things better but this is not true.  We have to know that we can't feel their hurt we can only listen and comfort them and share our own experience. 

I am happy to be where I am now.  Having that discussion with my sister really freed me to relate to her as a person instead of listening to big sister advice.  Today I am grateful to be free from the past. 

Sunday, September 25, 2016

Distraction - Vulnerability - Ordinary Addiction

Last weekend I did a spontaneous thing my friend and I drove to the Al-Anon convention.  It was a few hours away and some of our friends were part of the planning committee.  I was very nice everyone was really glad to see us.

We arrived in time for the speaker meeting first the AA then the Al-Anon.  Good speakers and of course I could relate more to the Al-Anon speaker.  The one thing that stuck with me was that he said he was on the outside since birth and that meeting the alcoholic was like meeting his soul mate.

I really understood that. He said he tried to drink and he did take pills but it didn't stick but the alcoholic was addiction at first sight. Having her in his life made him do crazy things that you would associate with and alcoholic but he was sober.

I have analyzed the appeal of the alcoholic for myself over the years and came up with a few things that sum it up for me.  First when they are at their best they can be the most emotionally honest people on the planet. They can make you feel you are loved beyond words and that with their love everything will be fine. Then the moment changes and there is such distance and indifference to you that it was like you imagined the whole thing. For me this hooked me so many times.

I spent so many days of my life trying to find the person I fell in love with and just when I was ready to give up they would appear again and I was back in. I wanted to feel that vulnerability and connection just more time.  It made me feel so alive and without it I was lost. Two halves making a whole which never works long term.

I have encounter this several times in my life and knew that I was playing with fire.  The going back over and over eventually broke my half in half again.  This is what sent me to the program for which I am eternally grateful. I don't blame the alcoholic because they are just trying to survive like we are.

I do think we are the same in that we both feel more than we should in this world. What is enough for most people is not enough for us.  We think there must be more and it is painful to walk around feeling this way so we need a distraction. We think that there is something wrong with us because we can't be happy with the ordinary.

At our worst we find something or someone destructive to fill that void.  For the Al-Anon we can hide behind the list of 10,000 things to do list.  It is acceptable in our culture to just do and give.  We can wear that badge of honor indefinitely.  For the addicted they fell into to something that at one time gave them relief from these feelings that this is all there is and it is not enough.

I believe there are people out there that have happier genes than I do for sure but for the most part I think the people that find happiness have better skills for coping with the ordinary.  They don't think like I have most of my life that there must be more or that I must be more.

I believe for myself this is immaturity.  I was raised by the eight year old inside of me and she always wants things to be as exciting as they were when we were eight.  She is strong willed and can only be held back for so long before she has to find a distraction. There are a lot of us out there.

For me the solution is to accept that this is who you are and find new things to do that will keep that eight year old entertained.  Change up the routine even for just a few hours.  Like drive 2 hours to a convention to hear a speaker and drive home.  I have trouble when I think about what might be of interest and everything on the list has been done before and it doesn't excite me so I feel paralyzed and plop myself in front of the TV and live the life of the character I am watching.

Just like I did when I was eight. It works and with YouTube I can actually learn things but it is still not satisfying.  I am glad that I can see where my suffering comes from but it doesn't mean that I can always do something about it.

Since I have worked hard to heal and get rid of all those stories I use to have in my head about the past I have a lot more time with my eight year old.  It use to be a full time job repeating the hurts of my past over and over again or worse trying to figure out what I did that made people dislike me so much that they had to get away from me. A painful but effective distraction.

So now it is just me and the eight year old looking for the next adventure.  Luckily I work a lot and don't have too much time to fill but there is still a lot.  Can I accept the ordinary? Can I actually be grateful that I am not in some sick relationship or crisis just to get away for feeling these moments of panic where there is just me and ordinary.

Just for today I can. Some of what I have said may seem harsh but I don't mean it that way.  I believe we are all hurt some more than others and we all have found different ways of coping with the hurt. I accept what ever anyone brings to the table.  I know we are all just trying to find our own way and I am grateful I have found my own peace.

Sunday, September 18, 2016

Gratitude - Grace - Depression - Letting Go

I went to the dentist this week and my dental hygienist told me about a friend that was severely depressed.  She recently divorced and lost her design business.  She said she doesn't talk to anyone and has tried unsuccessfully to kill herself.  Mostly she just sits and stares. She is on anti-depressants and they seem to be making her worse. 

I shared my story and my recovery explaining that I felt that my own break began with the shock of several things happening at the same time.  The ending of a 13 year relationship, having to move and then the recession making my own business virtually disappear.  The trauma sent m instantly into menopause and hyper-thyroidism I couldn't functions.  I thought about ending my own life mostly because I didn't think I could live another day without any emotions. 

I didn't consider anti depressants I did consider hormones but my mind was so convinced that we could work through this like we had always done.  That it was just grief and it would pass.  It was painful to be around other people and it was painful for them to be around me.  Someone actually told me that at one point. I couldn't be around anyone that needed or expected anything from me.  I couldn't be cheered up I was past that point.

During that time all I wanted to do is be outside.  I couldn't sleep and I couldn't eat it is a miracle that I was able to find my way out of this blackness. I had no interest in anything.  I once went to an antique mall with a friend and I couldn't even look around. I felt so disconnected that I told her I was going to sit outside and wait for her.  It didn't matter where I was or what I was doing.  I wasn't sad I was void of any emotions. She said she couldn't see me anymore.  I thought "I wish I couldn't see me anymore".  I didn't blame her.

Looking back I can see that there was a lot different things going on. Some were definitely spiritual and emotional.  I didn't take the medical route because I didn't have insurance that would cover a bunch of tests or prescriptions. The one person that was able to hang with me did finally buy me some over the counter progesterone.  Amazingly it helped just enough to give me hope of something better.

I had many spiritual breakthroughs about the lack of love I had for myself.  How everything I had done before was done to meet the needs of others so they would love me and they did until they didn't anymore. I did stop doing for others and it confirmed my worse fears most everyone disappeared. So it was true I wasn't worthy of love just being myself wasn't enough. 

How bleak is that?  I didn't know where to go I had already exhausted every spiritual route.  I did have a breakthrough on the porch one day. I felt like I heard "you're doing this to yourself"  You could also say this was me blaming me again. Was it really that simple?  Maybe.

Of course it wasn't that simple but at least it was a start.  I knew I couldn't trust the thoughts I was having as reality.  I did decide that day to just accept who I had become and move on.  This was evidently the new me and I had to live with it.  The search to find the person I lost was so exhausting my mind was constantly looking for a solution. This kept me stuck and kept me from healing.

I started to rest where I was and things started to get better.  Over the years some parts of me have come back and others have not. I don't mind.  I am grateful that I have made it through to the other side stronger than I ever was. 

If you have read my blog before you have heard this story before but I felt it needed to be told again. I have been pretty happy lately and had forgotten where I was until I heard about the pain of another. 
I wanted to get the woman's number but that wasn't possible under the circumstances. I wanted to say "tell her to stop listening to her mind it might be lying to her" but I didn't.  I did offer the progesterone over the counter recommendation.  I will keep her in my thoughts and prayers. 

When your mind turns against you and you believe the distorted truth it is hard to break free.  I feel that it was grace and my ability to finally let go that saved my life. I know now that I am loved by my creator the one that lives inside of me and that is enough. 

Saturday, August 20, 2016

Putting my story to bed - maturity

I am back from the big a event and a longer than usual visit with my sister.  It all went perfectly and the happy couple are happily honeymooning in a secret location on the coast of Mexico.

The first night as I sat at a table with my life size version of Cruella Deville I felt like I was having an out of body experience. She talked to me between barking orders to her own daughter about how she should be minding her great granddaughter. This is my stepmother of course  the one who forced me out of my own home at 16 with my dad standing by her side silent.

I sat there staring at her for awhile she still looks 20 years younger than her age. This for sure is not an accident many hours and many thousands of dollars on beauty products have made her the person she is today.  I don't think she has had surgery just hours of pampering.

Okay that is about only the venom I can come up with about her.  Truthfully and thankfully this was a final chapter of closure for me. Her daughter, from the marriage before my dad, talked to me about the fun times we had together.  She was six when they married and was uncontrollable and pulled a knife on me once when I was babysitting her. She would get so mad that she turned purple.  I would beg my dad to not leave me alone with her. Fun times for sure.

My sister and I were talking about how bad she was and she mention the time I tried to throw her down the stairs. I corrected this story she had about me.  I told her she was throwing my stuff down the basement stairs and it was crashing and breaking.  I did tell her if she threw one more thing down the steps she would be going down too.  This was the first time I stood up to her physically.

I know I always harp on the idea that everyone has their story.  The stories we have about other people and even the stories we have about ourselves are distortions of the truth.  A memory of an incident that we have rehearsed over and over in our own mind tweaking it ever so slightly each time. We carry this with us and attach either happy thoughts or resentments to these memories. It is just our version of what happened and seen through the eyes of in this case two people that were eleven and fifteen.

The idea of my step mother is my final story.  The one person I had stories around that still hurt me. It is time I put them to bed.  Over the course of our visit she told her own story several times of how her first husband cheated on her and left her. She didn't date for six years until she met my dad. When she was telling this to me I thought "you have never gotten over that have you?" Just like I have never gotten over my story of her the way she treated me and the fact that her rejection changed the course of my life forever.

It isn't easy for me to let this go and to forgive her, not that she is asking, for the part she played in alienating me from my family.  I do take responsibility for building on that alienation instead of returning to the scene of the crime as an adult and demanding my rightful place in my family.

I have spent most of my life with the child inside wanting them especially my dad to see my worth and tell me he loved me and wanted me to be a part of the family.  He never knew how his indifference to me has made me spend a lifetime trying to feel worthy of love.  He did love me and said it the few times we spoke but he was shut down emotionally. His family are all like that people of few words or emotions and I knew I would never get what I wanted from him. I accepted this.

In our minds we carry versions of our stories.  Our own versions and clinging to those versions can keep us locked in a darkroom.  It can keep us busy not living for today and we can find other people that are stuck in the same kinds of hurts that make us feel it is okay to stay stuck.  It does feel comfortable and familiar.  We definitely have a right to feel hurt and what happened to us is unfair but now it is time to move on.

This has been a process of maturity for me I didn't want to admit that I was the one keeping this going. I have given up most of my story and don't tell it too often these days if it might help someone, like here or if someone ask me. This I feel is the last piece of the past holding me back.

It isn't easy living without a story and for some it is unthinkable. I had someone ask me once "I am my story where would I be without it?" I said "free maybe".  This idea of life without a story means for me that I have to find something else to fill that space.  My life feels a little lighter since I got back.  I did have grieve the loss of my stepmother story more lettling go and I may have to put it to bed again at some point but for now I feel free.

Sunday, July 24, 2016

Peace - Cinderella - Finding happiness

I have the real weekend off and have slept in until almost 11 both days.  I haven't done that in a very long time.  I don't feel particularly tired but sleep is the best remedy for most things physical and mental.  The next few weeks will be busy and it is probably good to get it while I can.

We have a big wedding coming up the first of August my nephew is marrying into a pretty prominent family in his town.  There is an event every day for four days leading up to the wedding.  I have had to go out and buy the hopefully appropriate clothes.  My life has been more the life of a monk than a socialite so it is pretty stressful. The women at the first store kept saying "you can't wear that" finally settling on a top for the rehearsal dinner.

I spoke to my sister and she is stressed 10 fold.  We both are wishing we were thinner about now but not enough to jump on the diet path.  She will be in the official pictures and I will not.  She told me she has tried on 30 dresses and her final picks got the thumbs down from her son.

Pieces of my past will be at the table every night.  My step mother will be the honored grandmother. Hopefully it will be a big table and I will be at the other end.  She is the last person that can still stir something in me. If she had been kinder and more loving my life would have been different. I was an obstacle to her something between her and my father.

It was a true Cinderella story with the chores and all.  She didn't reserve her treatment for just me but even her own daughters.  She was an angry women who was left by her first husband the love of her life and she could never accept this rejection.  The "I am not enough story" manifesting it 'self just below the surface. I understand and have compassion for this story now but I don't necessarily want to sit next to her at the dinner table. 

If you believe in God then you have to accept that everything happens for a reason.  Life is laid out in a divine plan and we are exactly where we are suppose to be a nice story.  This thought can keep you going but I now believe that life is just life.  When bad things happen we just find a way to get through it the best we can and when good things happen we just try to enjoy the moment. 

I try my best everyday to just be kind and compassionate.  Realizing that everyone has their own story that they are living and that it has nothing really to do with me.  I can't change them just give them encouragement and if they reject me or love me it isn't something about me it is about them.

When I am at my best I choose to not take it personally.  Sometimes when I want someone to like me or do something I want them to do and they don't I slip away from peace and back to pain and frustration.  Luckily it doesn't last too long and I can return to peace.

When I head out to family central in the next few weeks I will have many opportunities to test my faith and use what I have learned. I am going with an open mind knowing I am healthier spiritually than I have ever been.  I am no longer Cinderella trapped in a bad situation I can't escape.  I escaped without the prince and the story wasn't the fairytale I wished for but I have found my own happily ever after.  

Monday, July 18, 2016

Al-Anon - Cleaning house

I am home for the second day of my weekend.  I didn't even bother to pack up my computer in case I had a work emergency. I have been doing the ordinary things that one does in life like cleaning and laundry.  I have to admit that during my depression I got out of the habit of regular anything most less cleaning.  

When I lived with addiction cleaning was what I did while I waited for my love to have that last drink and come home. I would get calls every hour saying "I am leaving right now" this was before I even knew I was dealing with addiction.  I thought if he loved me he would rather be with me than out drinking with his friends.  I blamed myself for his behavior I was never a happy person in those days I had found my happiness in him and I knew I was losing him which made me so controlling.  

Everything was the same as it had been before but for some reason he was staying away more and more. I tried to be prettier and keep the house clean.  I tried not to nag him about not coming home but I did try to find out what it was about me that was keeping him away.  Desperation is so attractive.

I was so young then in my early twenties trying to create the family I felt I missed out on in my life. I wanted stability and love so I latched on to someone who said they wanted the same thing.  I didn't know the strength of addiction and I had built my self-esteem around the fact that this fabulous person loved me so I must be really special. Everybody did love him all he had to do is enter the room and the sun came out.

I was losing and I blamed myself.  I knew if I tried hard enough I could solve this puzzle and things could go back to the way they were before I just had to keep trying. You know how this ends and for me I was lucky because it ended with a beginning.  I started my spiritual journey in Al-Anon.

I thought I was alone with all those desperate thoughts in my mind.  I thought I was alone with my schemes to control him to make this marriage work. What I found out was that my situation was mild in comparison to what others had suffered.  I cried after my first meeting because I didn't feel so alone anymore I could begin to stop blaming myself for everything.

By then he had left me for someone else so I never had to practice what I had learned with active alcoholism. What I did get to do is see my actual part in the drama of my life.  I could see just how much of my own power I had handed over to this person if they didn't love me then I was unlovable. I wish I could say I haven't repeated this exercise again and again in the years that have passed since then. 

It is okay because I have learned enough not to go there for too long. I have had to learn to love myself whether anyone loves me or not.  I am loved but it is conditionally even my love for myself is conditional.  Only the God of my understanding can offer me anything else. 

Today I am finishing my cleaning for no other reason than to do what needs to be done.  I am a little on the sad side today and I am wishing I had someone to share my life with not just anyone but someone that I could have a healthy relationship with.  Maybe someone to share these chores. Tomorrow I will be back in the thick of things and this day will be a memory. I better get back to my cleaning.  al

Monday, July 4, 2016

Trusting the flow - Paint - A color change

Since I have been resisting my life for so many years it feels really good to just accept things the way they are and just go with the flow.  I have been bringing color into my life first by painting my office a wheat yellow with an accent wall of drizzle blue.  It caused quite a stir with the head designer who prefers everything to be gray.

I have been gray long enough.  She said that it would have to be painted over this was a sad moment for me.  First my ego was like "do you think I can't pick colors?" I let it go and decided to bring the paint home an paint one of my bedroom walls with it.  It feels like the sun is setting behind my bed.

By some miracle the owner got wind of us painting our offices and came down to see for himself.  He said it wasn't his pick but it was nice.  I paid his son to paint the office so it wasn't like nobody knew it was happening.  When I did that it felt like I was committing to the job for the first time. Investing in a place that I have spent on average 10-12 hours a day for three years.

Ironically one of our cabinet companies came out with their new brochure with the exact same two colors.  I, not so secretly, felt vindicated.  

I am on a roll transforming my day to day life with color.  I had my house painted a few weeks ago and it looks awesome.  I was going go for the same wheat color on the front door but it turned out more like banana to me.  I will repaint once the weather gets cooler.  When I presented the colors to our committee I wasn't 100% sure so I picked harvest from the color brochure. Maybe it is a banana harvest not wheat. 

Yesterday I hung ten pictures up the stair way which has been blank since the great room was painted last year.  In my OCD mind I wanted to lay the pictures out neatly on paper an mull over my choices but it never happened. Ultimate the ADD side of me kicks in and I just started hanging pictures  and it looks great. After 12 months in 30 minutes I have an art wall. 

This is the inner battle that I have dealt with all my life.  Analysis paralysis versus just jumping in with no plan exactly.  I have learned to just trust myself and accept that this is who I am and that intuitively I will make the right decision. If I don't life will go on and I will get over it. 

I call it being in the flow especially at work.  With sales you never know who the real customers are or who should get my attention. I only have so many hours in the day so I have to make a decision an go with it. It always works out and I am finally learning to trust that my instincts are right. 

It feels good to let go of the wanting I have carried for so long.  Wanting things to be different than they are today or worse wanting the past to be different than it was.  I have moved back to the doing part of myself instead of the being part or the thinking part. I am finding my own peace painting, cleaning and pulling weeds trusting the flow.