Thursday, January 31, 2008

The Next Right Thing

Hibernating within the four walls of our home during the cold snap has made it hard to keep track of what day of the week it is. Today it was -26C and I braved going for my walk. I was wrapped up head to toe and while it wasn't exactly enjoyable it was good to get out of the house. It's been 5 days since I've done little more than stick my head out the door to call the dog back in. The cold weather hasn't been any fun for her either but we do know now that she is indeed litter box trained. I never knew such a thing was possible for a dog. I've said thank you many times in my head to the original owner who did all the hard work of training her so that I don't have to.

My food has been totally off this week. I've been snacking my way through the day, feeling like making a meal is a monumental task I just cannot face. At my last appointment my counselor gave me home work having to do with my childhood. It involved framing out a family tree of addictions, abuse and dysfunction as well as drawing a map of the house I grew up in. It was surprising what strong feelings welled up within me as I did each exercise. I realized I felt safe in only one room of the house and that was the dining room. I used to save up stuff to tell my mom at the dining room table as it was the safest place to have a voice without facing a backlash for doing so. That was an interesting piece of the puzzle for me. No wonder food is such a comfort.

Between the extreme cold weather and doing the homework it's been a tough slog this week. When I get shaky in my recovery I find myself going back to basics. Good self care tops the list and from there it's easier to do the next right thing. Little by little I'm integrating good self care back into my daily routine. Putting one foot in front of the can only get better (and warmer!)

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Heating Pad Pug

At one point here since midnight it was -55C with the windchill factored in. The power was out for three hours mid day. I went and started the van in case I had to drive to a neighbour's who had wood heat. It was a hard call to know at what point was it less risky to get in a vehicle and drive or stay in a increasingly colder house. I turned the burners on the gas stove on and that helped.

Energizer Bunny was a great heating pad as well.

We're over the worst of the cold weather. Perspective is a funny thing. It's only going to be -35C tonight.

Stay warm.

Sunday, January 27, 2008

Places of Fear

"We have places of fear inside us, but we have other places as well - places with names like trust and hope and faith. We can choose to lead from one of those places, to stand on ground that is not riddled with the fault lines of fear, to move toward others from a place of promise instead of anxiety."
~from Let Your Life Speak by Parker Palmer
Last night I went for a walk in -4C weather. This morning it's -42C outside with the windchill factored in. Tomorrow we're supposed to wake up to -48C. I'm thankful for a warm house and no need to go out. Appointments for tomorrow can be cancelled and a full blown pajama day will ensue. Our sons are on their way home today from a weekend ski trip and will be travelling in -40C weather and colder. I will be glad when they get home.

Yesterday dearest one and I spent a wonderful day together. We bought a few groceries then I went to my AA meeting while he did a bit of work in his office. Afterwards we went swimming and out for lunch. No rope swinging happened but I did get dunked. We had fun. The rope swinging will happen yet.

We were on our way to the check out counter in the grocery store when we met an old friend we hadn't seen in several years. All was well until he asked where we were going to church these days. I find it weird that people would ask that question within a minute of seeing you, as if it was the best way to get reacquainted. The conversation went downhill from there. He was not happy with our choice to live out our faith within the Catholic Church. Everything from "Catholicism isn't biblical" to "we don't share the same beliefs" followed. He didn't come out and say we were no longer Christians but he came close. There was a time when stuff like that made me angry. When I was sure if only I had all the answers I'd stop the other person mid sentence and could walk away triumphant. It would completely bypass me that a sin against charity is of greater importance than winning a verbal jousting match. Yesterday I walked away feeling like I'd been pummeled. There was so much we could have talked about, stuff that really matters. This past year has been so full of grace and growth and I feel sad that none of that would have been heard until my faulty beliefs had been corrected.

I'm no great apologist for the faith and have no desire to be. I try to hold my faith in an open hand, remembering that God cannot be boxed in.

I can give answers to many common objections about Catholicism. I don't do it to prove anything to anyone or to try and convince people like our friend that he's wrong and the church is right. I do feel an obligation to correct misconceptions, like when our friend said we had to have a Catholic baptism in order to be "saved" in the eyes of the Church. We were baptized in the church of this man's youth and were able to share that that baptism was valid in the eyes of the Church as we had been baptized in the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. In the end we parted before the conversation was complete (it didn't matter what we said he was hammering away at the error of our belief) and we were grateful that time restraints meant we had to be on our way.

I got to my AA meeting and had my back to the doorway when a friend came in. He said, "Hi, Hope." I must have seemed a bit startled because he asked why I was so jumpy. So I related what had just happened in the grocery store. He said to me, "You know why people are like that don't you?" "No," I replied. He went on to say that when people are not settled within themselves then they are shaken by another point of view. He said when he was okay within himself then how others live their lives doesn't faze him. But when he wasn't then he tended to pick at others for their choices.

On my walk last night I hashed out the day as I talked to God. I wondered if our friend had been operating out of fear. I'm all too familiar with doing the same. I wished yesterday I had asked him what he was afraid of. Last night I asked God to help me not operate of fear. I easily named aloud several areas of my life where I often let fear lead the way, thinking it's lighting the path. Relationships of my own where fear charges ahead while trust, hope and faith waiver.

Last night I lay in bed and prayed for our friend. I wondered if our friend was praying for us. I felt a lingering sadness about our encounter.

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Facing The Enemy

"Conversion, the movement toward the Lord, is a process of disenchantment with the ego, recognizing how truly afraid and poor it is. The only way people can ever be freed from their fears is to be freed from themselves. There is almost a complete correlation between the amount of fear in our lives and the amount of attachment we have to ourselves. The person who is beyond fear has given up the need to control or possess. That one says, I am who I am in God's eyes—nothing more, nothing less. I don't need to impress you because I am who I am, and not who you think I am—or who I think I am.

That's what the Pauline theology of Baptism is saying: You have died, you're dead (Romans 6:3-5). In Christ you don't need the false self. You have faced the enemy once and for all and, guess what? It's you!"

~Richard Rohr in Letting Go: A Spirituality of Subtraction
This was yesterday's quote from Richard Rohr but I opened the email tonight. How fitting. I sit here trying my best to not let fear run rampant and jump start me into controlling behaviour in order to soothe myself. God help me.

Thursday, January 17, 2008

Energy To Give Away

I'm trying to type with a dog on my lap. A dog that keeps sticking its butt in my face. There. I put her down on the floor and so she sits there whining at me because her two favourite places are either on a lap or running around outside. All other options illicit a whine from her that goes on and on and on. She's like the energizer bunny without the off switch.

It wasn't my idea to get a house dog. But the process of getting one showed me in a new way how to work my program and reap the promises. Maybe one day that will no longer come as a surprise to me but for now it still does.

Dearest one is a dog person. I prefer cats although they make me sneeze and feel like I have a head cold 24/7.

Someone had a purebred registered pug to give away and dearest one answered the ad only to be put on a waiting list. Great, I thought. Someone else will get it first and I won't have to deal with the issue.

Saturday night I came home to find out dearest one's name had risen to the top of the waiting list so the dog was ours if we still wanted it. Great, I thought. And out tumbled all my reasons why I didn't want a house dog. Or at least not now and not this dog. Having a difference of opinion is fine and dandy but what took me by surprise was the intensity of anger that seeped through all my protests. Eventually I looked at dearest one and said, "Why can't I simply say - I don't want a house dog - or - A house dog would be very healing for you, go for it!" Eventually dearest one went to bed and I was left to contemplate where all the anger was coming from. First I wondered if I was simply buying into my mom's dyed in the wool attitude that if something isn't her idea then it's not a good idea. As I sat there I realized I'd dragged 25 years worth of resentments about other dogs we've had into this conversation about the new one. Carrying that baggage into the present totally wiped my ability to be present off the radar screen. One of the benefits these days is that I'm able to look at that and not get defensive all over again. I simply know I need to add those resentments to my 4th step inventory and get back to the present.

Dearest one was sleeping by the time I figured all this out so first thing the next morning I told him how I'd dragged 25 years worth of resentments into the conversation about the new dog. How I knew instinctively that this new little dog could be very healing for him and that while I really didn't want a house dog right now I was willing to set that aside for his sake.

What happened next was a profound moment of grace. Earnie Larsen says that surrender is the ultimate power trip. Phillip Yancey says that repentance is the doorway to grace.

Dearest one has been doing gut wrenching work in counseling. We both have issues with intimacy - and by that I mean - letting someone see into our soul. Letting the walls crumble enough to let the other person in.

I was laying in bed and dearest one was sitting on its edge beside me as we talked. In the midst of this conversation about resentments and dogs there was an exchange of stark vulnerability that left us both in tears. A moment of deep intimacy. What was my body language at that moment? I realized I was laying there with my arms splayed out above my head like a newborn baby does when they sleep.

After dearest one left the room I lay there looking at the sun streaming in the window feeling full of gratitude for what had just happened. At the end of the day when we talked about the best part of our day - both of us chose that conversation.

It even trumped bringing home the Energizer Bunny.

She's sleeping with her head nestled in the crook of my arm as I resort to typing with one finger.

Thursday, January 10, 2008

Me Jane

Earlier this morning I thought to myself, it would take less energy to lay my head on the key board and cry than to lift my arms and type. The only catch is that tears don't magically seep into the keys and translate on to the screen. I've slowly been losing my grip on spoon filled days and I'm finding that hard to admit, let alone accept. Well, that's an understatement. My older sister tells me I used to throw quite the temper tantrums as a child. I'm not sure I've completely outgrown them. I'd have one now except it would use up precious energy - all those flailing arms and such - and the one thing I can do is choose my attitude regardless of my circumstances.

I haven't been a list maker of any kind for years and I don't miss the relentless measuring stick I made of those lists. So when I found myself journalling a list of 50 resolutions/goals for 2008 I knew I was headed for trouble. The day after my list making journal entry I wrote, "give your head a shake, girl!" With that I gave myself permission to disregard the list. Sure, there are things on there that I'd like to accomplish this year and the list is mostly made up of minor things like buy a pair of red shoes. But making the list was in itself a bell ringing wake up call. I couldn't shake a gut instinct that told me I must be feeling out of control in some areas of my life if that's how I was spending my spare time. Making unreasonable lists, as if they are the sanest option in the world, is my attempt at trying to control as much as I can outside myself in order to be at peace within.

Which is crazy making.

One thing that did make it on the list was a goal to go swimming twice a month. This past Saturday I did just that. And in my all or nothing thinking I had to make it worth my while, after all I'd paid 5 bucks to get in, and making it worth my while consisted of trying to dodge 15 teenagers while swimming laps across the pool. I way over did it physically. Occasionally I noticed that the bulk of the people around me were using pool time to socialize and that there was only one other person trying to swim laps.

When I was in treatment I told myself that the next time I was at the pool I was going to jump off the rope swing. It seems like such a little kid thing to do and I haven't done enough of that in my lifetime. I watched who was going off the swing (all Tarzan like) and not one middle aged woman was in sight. I weighed my options and decided that I really wanted someone important to me to witness (and take a picture of) my little kid moment so I'm saving that for next time.

I ended my time at the pool by spending a few minutes in the hot tub. As I sat down I recognized two people from recovery meetings and although I'd never talked to either of them before, I made my way over and introduced myself. While we were talking one of them spoke to a group of people who were from the treatment centre that I went to last summer. On my way out of the building the clients from that centre were waiting for the druggie bus as we called it, to take them back. I told them I'd gotten out of treatment in August. One of them asked me how it had been. I told him treatment had been life changing. He said he hoped it would be like that for him. I told him he would get out of it what he put into it. If he was willing to deal with his shit he'd have a better chance of making it outside treatment. He told me I was an inspiration and with that we went our separate ways.

By the time I got to the grocery store my chest was hurting from over doing it at the pool. Sunday morning I woke up with my heart racing over 100 and it did that for hours. Monday I had counseling at the childhood sexual abuse centre. Yesterday I got to a mid week AA meeting which helped me get my bearings. After that I had a session with my after treatment counselor where she helped me connect the dots as to some possible reasons for my lack of energy and how that was compelling me to grasp at control in other ways. It is so good to get another perspective. Left to my own devices I'd still be blaming myself for my current lack of spoons and beating myself up for not being able to bounce back at will.

I was able to trace my growing lack of energy back to when I started the counseling to deal with the trauma of childhood sexual abuse. Those have been exhausting, difficult-to-face sessions. So my counselor yesterday was able to stand back from the the situation and tell me that my body reacting with less energy was a clue that I was truly dealing with the baggage. That I was doing the hard work. That what looked like a negative was really more growth. She asked if the lack of energy continues as I journey, can I trust that I'm right where I need to be?

I looked at her and let the tears spill over.

Through my tears I told her I'd do just about anything not to go back to gauging my steps based on my spoon supply. Having no guarantee if tomorrow I'll wake up just as exhausted as I was this morning, or whether I'll feel normal makes me want to bang my head against the wall. I'm not back to square one health wise but I'm scared that's where I'm headed. I really thought my health issues were in the past.

I'm not God and I don't control it all.
And while I hate, hate, hate it, I can't experience serenity unless I accept that this is my reality for today. (my mindset has been: how dare you fucking betray me, body of mine, after all the hard work I'm doing.)
Yet my family doctor had told me that I might experience more physical symptoms when I started the counseling. The sexual abuse centre had also warned me that increased physical symptoms were a normal part of the process.

I was so sure I'd be exempt.
I don't know if it's sad or funny but picture a group of addicts together, who've forgotten they're human, and you'll find them tapping their chest (in unison, mind you) while emphasizing how they alone are special and not. like. other. people.

And since I'm finding out I'm more like those who've gone before me than not, here I am today. Attempting to deal with my shit. Praying to be willing to surrender it. Praying for the courage to trust the process. Shredding my application for God's job. And very grateful to recognize that crazy making lists and grasping for control are sick options for me when trying to deal with life on life's terms.

Will I trust or won't I? The choice is mine.

Earnie Larsen writes in Destination Joy
"Let go of the rope. Every day, every hour, one day at a time, stage by stage and step by step - let go of the rope."
When I do, that's one picture that's going to get framed.

Thursday, January 03, 2008

Changing Views

"There is nothing all that bad about mixed motives, unless we think they are pure." ~Falconbrother
I'm listening to James Taylor singing "You've Got A Friend" as I type. It's been a long time since I liked an entire CD but his new One Man Band mix is a keeper.

The song seems fitting as I mull over a telephone conversation I had all morning with a long time friend. One I'd lost touch with when she moved away. A friend who has been there for me through really rough stretches and who I was there for when she went through a deep and dark depression years ago.

Our friendship has barely survived where my spiritual journey has brought me. There were several years where we hardly talked. My interest in living out my faith within the Catholic Church became a huge elephant in the room. Other than our initial conversation where she insinuated I was deceived if my journey was going to take me there, we don't talk about this aspect of my journey. Eventually I told her that I didn't need her to support my choice of Church but I did need her to support me as I journeyed, if our friendship was to continue.

Our conversation this morning lasted several hours. And I can't shake feeling I was trying to prove something to her. Like see how far I've come in my journey since becoming Catholic and needing her approval. I hate when someone else's opinion matters more to me than my own. When I lose all sense that I get to define me and find myself handing over the reins and saying, "Here, you define me for a second, okay?" (or a minute, an hour, a lifetime; depending on the day)
But get like that I do.
When that happens I feel like I'm Odie in a Garfield comic strip.

Often when I am in conversation with someone I will imagine breathing into all the white spaces around their words in order to remind myself to listen for what's not being said, too. It helps me listen on a deeper level. This morning I simply ceased listening altogether, instead having so many answers of my own. It was a bunch of (apologies to dearest one for using this term) bla bla bla on my part. It wasn't so much what I said but my motives in saying what I did. Straining to show her just where I've arrrived to. Blech.

At one point she asked was I still writing? When I answered yes, but didn't give her my blog address I knew just how insecure I was feeling in our friendship. Not giving my blog address to friends means I don't trust them with the whole of my story. It means I'm scared they'll shit on me if they know the darkest places I've been. Sad that many of you who I've never met, know more about my journey than friends I've had for decades.

Several years ago I was in an evangelical church listening to the pastor preach. As I was sitting there judging him, these words, "When you judge the journey of others you are trying to steal their story from them. Don't steal their stories." came into my head. I'm scared she will steal my story. In the process I lose the ability to honour hers as well.

I hate when I'm not comfortable in my own skin; when being in the presence of some people make all my insecurities rise to the surface like yeast in the bowl. Damn.

When I was on my walk today I beat myself up for that for several paces before I caught myself and stopped. When I was in treatment this summer I asked a man I respect if he regretted not achieving sobriety the first time in treatment as this was his 4th or 5th time around. He looked at me and said, "I don't play that game. To do so would mean not honouring my story."

So I don't have it figured out like I thought I did. I get scared to show people the real me. The one without all the answers. The one I thought was behind me.
The one who gets progress and perfection mixed up.

How I feel about myself in relation to others is mine to own.
I so wanted to blame her.
Fear kept me from acting with integrity this morning.
I don't know how much of our friendship was based on us seeing the same view out the window, you know?
And I'm scared to find out.

Hopping Off The Pity Pot

Life is slowly returning to normal around here. I found myself teary yesterday, writing in my journal and trying to process my feelings. Eventually I decided to have a full blown pity party, if only for the day.

Two things happened yesterday to bring that to an abrupt end. I received word that my girlfriend from college - her mom passed away from a heart attack yesterday. And secondly, as I was about to post about my pity party on here last night I looked out the window to see the flashing lights of emergency vehicles on the hill in the distance. Soon the sound of an ambulance helicopter was over head. Having gone through a few family emergencies requiring such sounds I stopped and prayed for those involved. Their nightmare's just beginning.

My girl friend's mom was one of the first people I openly ridiculed because she was a Christian. I was an atheist in college and very quick to point out the humanity of those who professed any kind of faith. Ever reminding them they were less than perfect. One time we were sending my friend's mom flowers when she had surgery. She had told me she'd be fine because of her faith. At which I promptly ridiculed her. In her thank you card she reminded me that her faith had seen her through. Grrr.

I'm sure she prayed for me then.
I'm sure she's praying for me now.