Sunday, August 31, 2008

Looking Like Myself

"Who in your family do you look like?"

It's after the wedding and we're standing around visiting. Some of dearest one's family is meeting my parents and sisters for the first time. I look at my sister-in-law and say, "You tell me." Before she can answer my older sister pipes up that I look like one of our great aunts. I feel a momentary zing within me at her comment and then it disappears. My sister-in-law muses out loud about my lack of resemblance to my parents or sisters. I say nothing.

"It's too bad she doesn't look like anyone in the family." I'm 5 years old and visiting my granny. She's talking to my mom as if I'm not playing at her feet. Then she says, "If anyone, she looks like Magdalene." My 5 year old self shudders inside. My great aunt Magdalene has the ugliness face I've ever seen.

I let my granny's comment define me for the next 40 years. I used to get teased and sometimes bullied because of my looks in school. I was the butt of jokes, given a nickname based on my hooked nose. Several years in a row I told my mom that all I wanted for Christmas was a nose job. She would laugh at my request; she had no idea how serious I was.

Over time, as I found refuge in my addictions, the ugliness I felt on the outside was matched by the ugliness I felt inside. Shame and guilt can do that to a person. Twenty years ago, on a bike ride with the first woman I met in AA, I told her that I looked in the mirror as little as possible. I especially avoided looking myself in the eye.

I was mulling over all this yesterday on my way home from town. One of the relapse prevention strategies on my post treatment plan is to look in the mirror twice a day and say, "Thank you for being you." I still smile when I say it or think about it.
God, that's a miracle.
I realized that all over again yesterday as I was driving and it made my heart swell with gratitude. Big tears then rolled down my face and soon I was sobbing in one of those all out ugly contorted crying jags. I almost short circuited the tears but instead I took a deep breath and cried for several miles. I tried to talk, to give voice to the gratitude I was feeling.
To whisper to God a simple thank you.
I let the tears do it for me.
Just typing that makes me tear up all over again.

I don't know when I stopped wishing for a nose job for Christmas. I hardly ever remember that I have a hooked nose. (I can see all you who know me on facebook going to scrutinize my photo right about now!) Once in a while I see a child staring at me and then I remember. It no longer makes me shudder, though. When I worked in a school I once had a student impulsively reach across the desk and touch my nose, like she was checking to see if it was real. She asked me why it was like that. "It's just the way I am." It's simply part of who I am, not the whole of who I am.

Sometimes in meetings people introduce themselves as a grateful alcoholic.
In the beginning I didn't get it.
I was still feeling too much shame.
These days though, I do get it.
Without the addiction there would be no recovery.
And look at who I get to be in recovery....
I get to be me, hooked nose and all.
At last that's all I want to be.

Saturday, August 30, 2008

Blessing Enough

I feel in a bit of a funk this morning.
That means it's time for a gratitude list.

Biggest thing I'm grateful for this morning is that I can breathe.
I'm not short of breath.
I have an adequate spoon supply to get me through my commitments today.
I slept through the night last night.

For five years breathing was often an effort.
I was short of breath almost any time I moved a muscle.
Some days I could talk or breathe
but not both at the same time.
My spoon supply dictated my life.
And insomnia's been my companion
for most of the last 2 weeks since my friend passed away.

I had the greatest chat with my sponsor last night.
We laughed.
A lot.
We always do.
I can cry with her as well.
And swear up a storm when I'm really upset.
She'll listen no matter what state I find myself in
and share her experience, strength and hope with me.
It feels good to be loved for who I am, warts and all.

I have food in my fridge.
Money in my pocket.
Love in my heart.

It hasn't always been that way.
I have a friend who reminds me every so often
of the time when she opened my fridge and all that was in it
was a jar of pickle juice and a few wrinkly potatoes.
Those were dark times.
I remember going to the food bank
and most of all wanting some fruit and vegetables
for my then small children.
Only daughter was 8, oldest son was 6 and
youngest son was 4.
There was no money to buy food.

We've been through that once more
about 10 years further down the road.
Produce was still the food item I missed the most.
It was during this dark time in our journey that
a family member was killed.
I don't even know if I can call this a dark time.
It felt like the darkest time.
It was not a fun time.
I would not raise my hand and volunteer to go through it again.
But it sunk my faith into the depths of my being.
I know that I will be okay no matter what.
Embracing that belief only came in the midst of the worst of times.
A time when I was given the grace to know that God
still had my back.

I don't pay much attention nowadays
when people talk about God blessing them.
Or Satan thwarting their plans.
If I would have had my way in the worst of times
I would have waved my wand and made all the painful parts go away.
I would have orchestrated it so that life was all blessing.
Even to those who believe in the prosperity gospel bullshit.
I don't equate God's blessing with circumstances.
I'm breathing.
That's blessing enough.

I pray daily for God's will to be done in my life,
acknowledging that I have no idea what God's will looks like.
I just know whatever unfolds
Jesus hunkers down beside me
and waits it out with me.
And that sometimes what looks like the worst possible scenario
may contain something that will change me forever
for the better.
I no longer believe God orchestrates stuff like that
as if he has some lesson to teach me.
I lost that belief when I no longer needed to go around living my life
with a "I'll show them" attitude.
Oh yes, I may swear up a storm, throw something at the wall,
scream and holler my way through circumstances I. don'
I haven't lost my humanity.
But I don't know what's best for me.
And I trust in a God who does.

I'm not in a funk anymore.
Typing all this and remembering how it's been at times
has given me a much needed change in perspective.
Here's to a day
where breathing
is enough.

Friday, August 29, 2008

Keeping Pace

You know those commercials where the energizer bunny just keeps going and going and going? It's really too bad our pugaboo didn't come with an off switch. We made the mistake of letting her sleep in bed with us last night. If you'd asked me a year ago if I'd ever let a dog sleep in my bed I would have given you a good long stare that said when hell freezes over.

I woke up in the middle of the night to the dog pacing up and down the length of the bed right between me and dearest one. A noisy pacing complete with snorting and flying spittle. She got put back in her kennel asap and I was awake for the next 4 hours.

The dog has energy to burn this morning while I am dragging my sorry ass around. And I mean dragging.
I need to hang a sign on my bedroom doorknob that reads, "No pugs allowed."
I can just see youngest son rolling his eyes and saying, "Ya, right. That'll happen when hell freezes over."

Thursday, August 28, 2008

Repairing The Damage

It was my turn to have vehicle trouble today.
Last night only daughter and lover boy finally made it home
60+ hours after they left here. Dearest one has their car trouble figured out already. A simple fix. One their mechanic in big city far away should've been able to diagnose and fix with mechanics 101 under his belt.
C'est la vie. And a big tow bill to boot.
My van will be a simple fix, too although I think dearest one is at the point where a bullet hole through the next vehicle to break down will do the trick quite nicely.

It took several hours for my tow truck guy to arrive but thankfully I had a good book to read in the meantime. Fifteen minutes down the road we drove past a big truck that had flipped on its side earlier in the day. It certainly put my puny car trouble into perspective. My van simply slowed to a stop, it didn't have to hit the ditch and roll on its side first.

My appointment with Fr. Charlie went well.
Hashing out the details of the past week helped me see just how much changing I've done since I came home from rehab. It feels good. It feels worth every one foot in front of the other step I've taken.

Part of recovery is making amends for hurts inflicted. There's someone I've wanted to make amends to for as long as I've been sober. This month's step is about being willing to make amends. The willingness has been there but the opportunity hasn't. The other night I was talking to my mom, who mentioned she'd been talking to his mom, when I asked for the umpteenth time if she knew where he was living. Nope. It dawned on me that maybe I could find him online. So I went searching and found a few people with his name who might live in the right area. I queried with vague details to see if one of them was him. Tonight one of them wrote back with one little sentence that told me they were indeed the right person. That sentence was about the very thing I needed to make amends for. I guess we've both been carrying that incident with us for 30 years now.

One of the oldest amends on my list has now been made.

Fixing broken vehicles is so cut and dried.
Take out broken part, replace it with a working part
and go on your merry way.
At the worst the vehicle is beyond repair and you buy a different one.
Or you walk.
Well, except I live in the boondocks so that's not exactly an option.
But you get my drift.

Fixing broken relationships.
That's not quite so easy.
I have no control over my school mate's response to my amend. For all I know he still thinks I'm the same bitch that he did when he stopped talking to me that day 30 years ago. For tonight I can let go of that.

Fr. Charlie and I talked today about the difference between being sorry because one feels bad about what they did and wants to feel better about themself as opposed to being sorry because one's actions harmed the other person. I told him I've made countless apologies to others in order to make myself feel better. Apologies made without ever letting myself gaze, let alone look, at the hurt I inflicted and how my actions damaged relationships. Most of my apologies over the years have been self pity driven.

I don't know how it is for other people. How it happens that they get courageous enough to want to change. How it is that they become willing to stop repeating the same old habits that get them the same old results. While part of me feels embarrassed that I only figured out today that apologies made out of self pity really don't heal much, at the same time, I'm thankful that such a realization is possible.

In some ways I'm not much different than the mechanic who was unable to fix only daughter's car. It would be easy to sit here and think he's a dumb ass because he kept replacing the same part without fixing the problem. I'm sure every time he tightened the last bolt and stepped back to look at his work, he felt a sense of satisfaction that all would be well now. What he lacked was the ability to see that he kept putting the part in backwards.

Tonight I feel more empathy for him than anything.

Wound Care

I am on the home stretch as far as appointments go at the sexual abuse centre.
Originally they ask for a one year to 18 month commitment and in November it will be one year since I started seeing a therapist there. Yesterday we talked about where we both thought I was in the process.

It was a good appointment and I came away with some direction, some idea as to what is left to delve into. It's not going to be fun but I am determined to face what needs facing and do what needs doing. I survived the initial abuse. That's the most important thing. The rest is wound care. I don't mean that to sound cavalier, this healing work has been the hardest work I've done in the whole process that was jump started when I went to rehab last year.

I do, however, have a deep sense that I am okay, that I will be okay, that who I was created to be is a bigger part of my conscious living than ever before.
Thanks be to God.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

It's A Wrap

It's the middle of the night and I've been laying awake for over an hour already. I've had more bouts of insomnia since my friend died than I've had in the past 6 months. With all the hoopla around the wedding I fell into bed exhausted every night and slept like a baby.

So let's try to empty the nooks and crannies. Usually insomnia wreaks havoc when I go to bed with too many thoughts vying for my attention.

One of the funniest things I heard on the weekend was when my older sister said that they took turns pulling straws to see whose turn it was to be the backseat driver. She travelled with my parents and they all took turns driving. Remind me never to travel in the same vehicle as them. Dearest one has said from the beginning of me coming home from rehab last year that he knew I'd really changed when he got to the outskirts of the city and I hadn't once tried to tell him how to drive. There's hope for all of us if I can stop being a backseat driver.

Only daughter is still stranded in a city far away. Hopefully tomorrow her car will be roadworthy again and she can make it the rest of the way home. If not, then a family friend will haul her old car to her and bring the broken one back here. Dearest one had fixed up a new-to-her car for her return trip. The old one was old and on its last legs but obviously still is more dependable than the newer one. Eventually she'll make it home.

Oldest son and his new bride had minor car troubles yesterday. Thankfully their car righted itself without any need for mechanics or money. There's another week or so left of their honeymoon before they'll be back in town.

Youngest son made his way back to work yesterday after taking an extra day off to recuperate from the wedding. He was his brother's best man and had a busy weekend as well. Next week he returns to college and a different routine. At least we won't be going all different directions as he and dearest one can travel to town together.

Dearest one is feeling a tad overwhelmed this week. Students start back next week and he has lots of stuff to get ready before then. Combine that with taking 3 classes himself, plus teaching full time and getting a talk ready for a men's weekend and well, he is more than busy.

I spent yesterday in my pajamas. A fully lazy day. I read a book and took a nap and basically did nothing productive. Today I have an appointment at the sexual abuse center and tomorrow an appointment with Fr. Charlie. Friday is an at home day but the weekend is busy between AA commitments and a 25th wedding anniversary celebration for one of dearest one's siblings.

It's still hard to believe my family was actually here. There are lawn chairs still sitting around the fire pit and several times yesterday I gazed over that direction and closed my eyes and remembered how it sounded and looked to have them here.
It was wonderful.
It went too fast.

Kind of like life itself.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

C'est La Vie

The dew is darn near frost on the grass this morning.
It dipped below freezing here last night.
That's so bizarre because I got a sunburn at the wedding.

It's too bad this is an anonymous blog because otherwise I could post photos
of the bride and groom and all the fun. Some of their friends have them up on facebook already, though.

Dearest one is back at work, youngest son is, too.
Only daughter had mechanical problems with her car
several hours from here yesterday. So she gets another
day off while that gets fixed.
Just a little while before she was stranded at the side of the road,
she and lover boy stopped for lunch. Across the street was one of those AAA places where you can buy coverage for things like needing a tow and all that jazz. She jokingly said that she should go across the street and buy some for when her car broke down. She didn't. Not too far down the road a rad hose blew and the car lost all its anti freeze.
C'est la vie.

When all the hoopla of the wedding started late last week
I knew it would feel like it was going by too fast.
I told myself to simply enjoy every moment as it arose.
I did pretty good at that.
It seems a bit surreal that my family was really here.
That my sisters and my mom and I all worked in the kitchen together.
That we sat around a camp fire and laughed and ate and had a good time.
There were kids running around or sitting on the grass gabbing with their cousins.

Today is a pajama day for me.
I'm tired, but not too tired.
I have several good books to read
and a dog that is lacking some serious lap time.
The rest of the week is full of appointments and
extended family celebrations of other kinds.
This is my day to do absolutely nothing.
I'm going to nestle in and enjoy it.

Monday, August 25, 2008

Icing On The Cake

"So what are your plans for the day," my older sister asks me this morning.
We're settled in comfy chairs at the bed and breakfast 10 minutes down the road from my place.
"A walk, some yoga, some writing and a nap."
"Oh God, a nap," my younger sister groans.
She has a 10 hour drive ahead of her today, with 5 kids ranging in age from 10 to 16 in the van with her. That's enough to make anyone groan even with terrific kids like hers.

But here I am, typing away at the public library in the city an hour's drive further down the road. When I got back home from saying goodbye to my parents and sisters, nieces, nephews and brother-in-law, dearest one asked if I'd like to come to town with him. He had a few things to do at the office and then we could go for lunch and buy some groceries. We've hardly seen each other in the past three days. And not without other people in the mix, except at night when we fell into bed exhausted, hardly aware of the other person. That's what happens in a king size bed - you can sleep and roll over and not know you have a bedmate. Dearest one said a few times during the night he reached over and then reached over further to see if I was still in bed.

The office work is done, lunch is finished and dearest one is sleeping for a bit in the van. This is the third day in a row he's had a migraine and the last day for a week that he can take migraine medication. Three days running is the limit before side effects make it dangerous to ingest any more. I hope that with getting back to a regular routine he'll be pain free tomorrow. He asked if I'd park the van somewhere while he had a nap and slept enough until the medication kicked in.

So here I am.
A library is my second favourite place in the world.
The first is home.

Libraries have always been a safe, comforting haven for me. And today I picked up 5 books, in less than a minute, from the new books shelves. That's like icing on the cake to an already great day.

I do look forward to waking up tomorrow, making my way into the kitchen and fixing breakfast. I'll carry it into the office and eat it while I write a blog post. Then the energizer bunny and I will go for a walk.

Life is good.
Very, very good.

Sunday, August 24, 2008


Celebrations are so much better from a place of sobriety
than with all the booze in the world.

I cannot remember when I've had such fun.
The past three days has been full of fun, laughter and love.
Dearest one and I danced to our hearts content.
The first time we've ever danced without me being totally drunk.
We had a blast.

I still have company and more family stuff for tomorrow.
Until that's over this little tidbit will have to suffice.

Two things stand out for me right now.

First...after oldest son was married
he was standing with dearest one when he
looked across the pond (it was an outside wedding in a beautiful place)
and saw his new bride. He stopped and said, "Wow. That's my wife."
And he started to cry.
He is so tender hearted and I love that about him.

Today my older sister and my parents left a beautiful gift bag on my bed.
They stayed at our home a few nights ago while we were getting ready for the wedding
a few hours further down the road.
As a thank you they bought me this angel.
My sister picked out this angel from a line called Eden's Angels.
The one my sister picked for me was called Freedom Angel
The little card with it said this:

With the freedom to dream,
we have the Faith
to pray for the courage
to be who we really are.
That little card sums up this past year for me.
Today is one year since I came home from rehab.
What a year it has been.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Curling Up

All manner of my family is traveling today.
Making their way slowly northward.
I've moved houses 3 times since my parents or sisters
were here to visit last time.
It doesn't seem real that they'll be in my home.
But they will be.

My mom said my oldest brother is going to stop and see me
sometime in the next few weeks as well.
He's been in my home once.
His wife, never.

Every family has things that seem normal to them
but not to others.
Some of it is, in the end, very normal.
And some of it is bizarre.

I feel the edges of perfectionism gnawing at me today.
Wanting to feel control over something.
I am not my home.
I am not my yard.
I am not my body.
I am not my kids.
There's a lot of self talk going on within me today.
And nigglings of self doubt that
I've never really changed at all.

It's cold and rainy today.
Good weather to do some baking,
some self nurturing.
Weather that lends itself to relaxing
with a cup of tea.

I have a list on my fridge
that my counselor and I came up with
of positive self soothing behaviours.
With the rainy weather
and sorrow over losing my friend
I look at the list and choose curling up in a blanket and
rocking back and forth.

I can only change me.
Lord have mercy.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Their Own Path

This morning the energizer bunny sat right at my head,trying to lick my face, while I tried to go back to sleep. She thinks anything covered up with a blanket, be it feet, a toy, my head, is something to attack and play with. Eventually I uncovered my head, looked at her and groaned, "You're one of those morning people aren't you?". Well, not exactly a people but you get my drift. I gave up, or in, and got up.

It's chilly enough this morning to wear cozy flannel pjs and have a cup of tea with my breakfast. A much welcome rain is coming down as I type. The rain guage shows half an inch of the wet stuff in the past 36 hours. We are in desperate need of it.

This afternoon is the funeral of my friend. I've been in tears quite a bit the last few days as I try to grasp that she's really gone. The energizer bunny sat on my lap and was such a comfort. She can get such a look of concern on her face. She would fix it if she could.

My friend was often at the mercy of a lot of judgement of good church going people. It didn't turn her off faith but it did wound her. She talked often of not knowing how people facing the health issues she did, did it without a faith in God. She credited God with her amazing progress post transplant. Sometimes I wanted to scream, absolutely scream, when people would ask me about her faith journey. They assumed much because she didn't go to church, because she and her husband had lived together for years before they married, because she smoked until she got sick. And sometimes they would blame her sickness on her smoking when her illness was not in the least related to smoking. It was an immune system response where her body attacked it's own cells. Non smokers get the same disease all the time. So do underweight, overweight, and in shape people.

But judging others feels good. God knows I know that because of how judgemental I can be. I have to remind myself often that I never know the full story of someone else's journey.....that I'm not God.....that minding my own business and living my own life takes enough energy without spending it passing judgement on others.

While I was cleaning up the office this week I kept running across little pieces of paper that had quotes on them. Some made it into my computer notebook, like this one:
"The most compassionate thing I can do is allow (them) to be on their own path."

Lord have mercy.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Waiting and Walking

"The hope on the other side of despair is the unique gift of God to those who walk the journey. It is hope not based on anything in particular working out. It is a hope that comes to those who wait and walk at the same time.

It is not just a hope; it is The Hope; a gift not founded on circumstances or successes but a gift that declares that Reality can be trusted after all. Someone is Good somewhere. Goodness is at the beginning and the bottom of all of this. Goodness will win out.

~ from Richard Rohr's Near Occasions of Grace

Let Me Sleep

"Sometimes we wake up grumpy and sometimes we let her sleep."
They should have let me sleep this morning.
I am not a morning person at the best of times.
I'm not exactly a night owl either.
Just give me my sleep and no one will get hurt.
That about sums me up today.
It can only get better.

If you want to read some food for thought kind of posts today
try here and here and here.

As for me I'm going back to bed.
Have a good day.

Monday, August 18, 2008

Taking The Edge Off

We had a lovely water fight last night.
Dearest one was chasing the cat out of the garden with playful squirts
of the water hose.
I told youngest son to just wait and see
that his dad would try and get as close to me as possible with the water spray without actually hitting me.
Eventually he did just that and then miscalculated and got me wet.
And we laughed.
I went and got an ice cube and had youngest son put it down his dad's shirt.
At one point younest son took the watering can and started watering my flowers.
He suddenly turned and poured it right over my head.
Then over his dad's head.
Then over his own.
We all ended up wet and laughing.
Laughter takes the edge off the grief.

Baby Stepping My Way To Sanity

I just wrote out a day by day itinerary for this week.
I'm writing this Sunday night and posting it as if it's Monday morning.
Does that count as taking life one day at a time?
I think it will have to be a baby step by baby step kind of week.
Looking at the whole picture feels overwhelming.
Today I hope it is cool enough to do some housework. We've had 30C and a couple for about 4 or 5 days in a row now. That's about 90F and then some. The air conditioner is not keeping up with the heat. Sitting still makes me sweat, never mind moving.
I tend to clean a room and put what I don't know how to want to deal with in the next room. Then I do that with each room until all the left over stuff ends up in the last room. Housekeeping does not come naturally to me. Slobville does.
Tuesday will be more housework. There's carpet stains to get out (I found the greatest cheap cleaner for this)and a bathroom to scrub down. Bedding to wash and floors to clean.
Wednesday is my friend's funeral.
Thursday only daughter and her lover boy come home. She hasn't been home since Christmas. It will be his first trip here.
Friday my parents will come here and spend the night while we travel a few hours to a different province for the wedding preparations.
That would be the wedding rehearsal and rehearsal dinner.
Saturday is the wedding.
Sunday my parents and sisters will be here for supper.
Monday I will wave goodbye to family and promptly cry.
Yep, I think a baby step approach is my only sane choice.
I'm thankful that I know that's an option.
Otherwise it would be dramaville around here.
I'm so glad to know I only have to do this step by step.
That's manageable.
For today.
Er, tomorrow.
Or on a Sunday night writing like it's Monday morning kind of day.

Sunday, August 17, 2008

Rose Scented Comfort

Friday night I returned a call to another AA member telling him I wasn't coming into town the next day so no, I wouldn't be able to chair the meeting for him. We chatted about other things for a bit and then he asked if I would be willing to be a speaker at the treatment center this coming week. Every week AA does a speaker meeting at the center where two people share what it was like (when they were drinking), what happened (how they found recovery) and what it's like now (how working the 12 steps has changed their lives). I would have loved to be one of those speakers, this week's meeting being nearly a year since I finished the program there. However, I had to decline due to family obligations that particular evening. I trust another opportunity to share at the center will come my way if it's meant to be.

This phone conversation took place before I found out that my friend Karen had passed away. When that phone call came my first thought was that I needed a meeting. I talked with my sponsor and left it open for us to go together to the meeting the next morning. I went to bed pretty sure I was going to stay home. I slept poorly that night. The next morning I was watching the energizer bunny be her cute self when I remembered Karen's small dog and how it had been her constant companion these past few years. How much joy it had brought her and how much that dog was going to miss her. Tears welled up as I thought all this and I thought to myself yet again that I needed a meeting. I had just looked at the clock to guage how much time I had before I had to decided whether I was going to go when the phone rang. It was my sponsor asking me if I was going to the meeting.

Just over an hour later we were both warming chairs at the meeting. That the doors were open, that someone stepped up to chair the meeting....I was so grateful. I told the chairperson that I'd no idea that between the time I talked to our friend to decline chairing the meeting and this morning that I would be the one who would need a meeting the most.

Yesterday I realized how safe I feel in the rooms of AA, especially my home group. I can cry in front of these friends and feel no shame or embarrassment about it. I could simply be myself without pretense, which included sharing how I glared at someone this past week with a fuck off times ten glare. How strange that recovery depends on letting go of pretense when often letting go of pretense in a faith community will get one ostracized. We have things a bit screwed up there I think. No wonder Philip Yancey talks in his book, Church,Why Bother? about how church should be more like an AA meeting. [Okay - I'm off my soapbox,now.] I looked at the guy who chaired the meeting and thanked him for opening up early, for chairing the meeting when he had other plans for the day.

My sponsor and I spent a few hours together after the meeting, having a leisurely lunch, and getting a few errands done. We sat in her car at the end of our time together and dabbed rose scented cuticle moisturizer on our fingers. That scent always reminds me of our Blessed Mother. Who better knows what grief is all about?

Last night in the dusky moonlight dearest one and I went for a walk.
That is my favourite way to spend time.
It was a comforting day all around.
Thank you for your prayers.

Saturday, August 16, 2008

Relaxing Rigid Ways

One week from today oldest son will be married.
I had a dress hanging up in the closet.
One with a deep blue/purple hue.
It made my eyes look that colour, too.
But it stuck to my belly.
The belly that, with a 60 pound weight loss,
is on it's way to China.
Too bad there isn't an Olympic sport for that.

So with just over a week to go
I found a new dress.
One which floats over my skin,
relieving me of the feat of trying to
suck in my belly for 12 hours straight,
(underneath a girdle and all).
The new dress is navy with a beautiful beaded front.
I'll be able to put it on and
forget about what I'm wearing.
That's been my guiding mantra in clothes shopping this past year.
"Do I feel comfortable and confident in this?"
It's good when I ask myself that before I shell out the money.

This period of my life is my first experience
of wearing clothes that flatter my figure
without it triggering feelings of being slutty.
It's a foreign, but getting more comfortable feeling,
to celebrate this body of mine, however saggy it's becoming,
by wearing clothes that don't make my body
look like it's a tall, rectangular box.
I no longer hide my curves
as if I'm ashamed of them.
I walk differently now.
There's a confidence to my step
that is brand new.

There's something hopeful about breaking rigid ways of being
half way through life. Because of the childhood sexual abuse
my perception of sexuality and absorbing responsibility
for anything remotely connected to sexuality were warped.
How do we even begin to challenge warped thinking
when we believe it's normal?

A few months into counseling
to help me heal from the sexual abuse,
I related an incident to my counselor
where I was walking through a parking lot,
on the way into a store, when
a strange man said hello to me.
Instantly I took all responsibility for his hello.
Believed I must be sending out a vibe, a bad one.

I was in grade three when one day a boy I was helping
with his spelling, looked at me in such a way that I knew
he had a crush on me.
My instant sense within was of how much power that gave me.
I never challenged that conclusion in over 35 years,
until my counselor pointed out to me that
"no" I didn't have power over all men.
I'm almost embarrassed to type that,
her words were a brand new thought to me.
She gave me several reasons why a man could say hi to me.
Ones I never even thought of,
was not capable of figuring out on my own.

Hmmmm, I wasn't aware this post
was headed into this territory when
I started typing.
Sometimes when that happens I push
the delete button and start over.

It's only in this past year
that I've started to inhabit
this body of mine.
Started to be in it comfortably
instead of being detached from it
as if it was something to reject.
It's been a relief to learn
and believe that I'm more than a sexual being without
having to reject my sexuality in the process.

I also know when I start typing posts
in this poetry like pattern
I haven't the emotional energy to try and make
sense out of formal paragraphs and coherent sentences.
That I could be detaching somewhat from that deeper place
that I'm learning to live from.
That most likely has more to do with my friend's death
than anything else.
I didn't sleep well last night.
Morning came way too early.
I can feel the tears lining up in my body
waiting their turn to be released.

For today I can do this.
Thank God I don't have to navigate
this journey all by myself.
Thank you for being a part of it.

Friday, August 15, 2008

Phone Karen

The handwriting's mine. Written between cocoa and ferret food on my grocery list. I wrote it in a hurry one day last week hoping that if I put it on paper where I could see it, I'd remember to call. I never did.

Karen passed away yesterday.
I found out this evening.

We hadn't known each other long in terms of years of friendship - only the past 5 years - but we shared a bond of understanding that was of the forever kind. Although we lived in neighbouring communities our paths hadn't crossed until then. It took the internet to get us connected. When I was first having health issues and trying to get a diagnosis I posted a message on a forum for people diagnosed with PH, an illness bandied about by one of my doctors. One of the people on that message board wrote me to tell me that Karen lived close by and might be a good contact person for me. Was she ever.

Her story mirrored mine to some extent. She spent 4 years trying to get a diagnosis only to be told by one doctor to go home and get a life because there was nothing wrong with her. By the time she got diagnosed with PH her disease had progressed so far that medication couldn't halt it's progression. She was soon put on a waiting list for a double lung transplant. Fucking, fucking doctors.

Karen was my cheerleader. Because she had been doubted by doctors, which fed her own self doubt about whether it was all in her head or not, she was so supportive as I tried to get a diagnosis of my own. When I had a doctor look at me and tell me either I had all these funky things or I didn't and maybe I was simply hormonal (and he leaned towards the hormonal conclusion) Karen was there to listen to me cry and vent. In turn I could listen to her as she still doubted the seriousness of her illness, still worried that the fever she had or the abdominal pains were all in her head and she shouldn't bother the doctors. She knew I understood how it screws with a person's mind when the powers-that-be send you home like a chastened child. There was always a hint of this self doubt no matter how sick Karen got. I think it only left during the times she ended up in ICU.

Karen was there as I gave up on getting a diagnosis and stopped going to the doctor. She had done that herself at one point, too. She was also there to listen as my health declined. Eventually I got to see the doctor who was instrumental in getting her a diagnosis. This doctor believed me and told me she would be with me no matter how long it took to get it figured out. Figuring it out took 9 trips of 1500 kms each between June and November of that year plus a 10 day stay in a hospital far, far away. Eventually I had the gold standard test for PH and was found to be borderline. I remember the doctor telling me that even if my numbers had been higher he wouldn't do anything about it until the numbers got much, much higher. The medicine needed to treat it was so expensive that the government wouldn't pay for it before then. I looked at him and said, "so it's a crap shoot really - take me to the brink and then see if the medicine will bring me back." He nodded.

He did run every test he could. They even flipped me upside down for a second spiral CT scan of my lungs looking for the place where my blood vessels were bypassing picking up the oxygen. He was the doctor who referred me to a cardiologist who was so thorough in her listening that it led to a referral to a geneticist and eventually to a diagnosis. A diagnosis that scoops all kinds of funky health issues in because Elhers-Danlos has to do with the glue(collagen) that holds everything, even yours eyes, together in your body. When that's defective there's a never ending list of things that can be funky. I was thankful that funky won out over hormonal. Karen and I had a pet name for the doctor who had previously dismissed me. He had once treated her like a piece of crap, too.

Karen was the one who told me about the spoon theory to help others understand what it was like to lack the energy to do the simplest of tasks. We got so that we could tell by each other's voice how many spoons the other had.

Karen got her new lungs 4 years, 5 months, and 2 days ago. Her husband called on the way to the waiting air ambulance that would take them to a far off city to have the transplant. That transplant gave her several years of a much more normal life although she still spent way more time in the hospital than most people do in a lifetime. A year ago she spent every significant holiday and celebration from Christmas to Easter to Mother's Day to Father's Day to her birthday in July, to her wedding anniversary in August, in the hospital. We joked this year when she made it past several of those events without being hospitalized. Even throughout those days in the hospital she would call and be more interested in what was going on with me than talking about her. She had the greatest contagious giggle and even after she'd broken vertebrae in her back from coughing too hard, she still ended up in giggles. She'd sound like this....giggle, ouch, giggle, ouch.

Sometimes when she would call from the hospital I wondered if this time would be the last time I talked with her. I've lost count of how many times I thought to myself, "this is it, she won't make it through this time." only for her to bounce back once again and surprise even the medical team.

She fought to make it through when her daughter got married last year and when her parents celebrated their 50th anniversary soon after. How she summoned up the energy for either is a miracle. Sometimes she was let out of the hospital just days before the event.

About a year ago she brought up the subject of her death. It was the first time we had that conversation. In the time since she alluded to knowing she wouldn't be here to celebrate her 50th birthday or her 25th wedding anniversary. No too long ago she worried outloud about her remaining siblings because she thought that for sure within 10 years neither she or her parents would be here. Both her parents are battling terminal illnesses of their own. She felt bad that she would be leaving her husband alone.

I last saw her about a month ago. We didn't see each other in person very much. But we talked on the phone pretty much every week up until about a year ago. Even though we didn't talk as often we still connected regularly. I knew if I didn't hear from her for a while it meant she was most likely in the hospital either here or in the big hospital far away where she had her transplant. Sometimes her husband would call and let me know where she was and sometimes I had to wait until she was strong enough to talk on the phone then she'd call and away we'd go again. She always called eventually. I thought this time she would, too.

When I started this blog I wrote a post that explained how I chose the blog's title. I had just been diagnosed after several years of doctors and tests galore. Back then I could choose between breathing and talking but couldn't do both at once on the worst of days. Sometimes Karen would hear me take a breath between words and point it out to me. She always encouraged me to listen to my body. She could hear things in my voice that weren't on my radar screen. It's good for me to remember that. Life has changed so much since then.

When we saw each other last month she was surprised by my weight loss and I was surprised by her frailness. It was as if she'd come full circle from post transplant back to a pre transplant state of health. Her home care nurse helped her to the couch and got her oxygen straightened out before leaving us to visit. We sat on the couch and watched her favourite TV shows together. It was a comforting distraction. It was easier when talking on the phone to avoid thinking about her death. Seeing her in person made me face that she wouldn't always be here. I haven't grasped that reality yet. I'm remembering her voice in my head as I type and hoping it will never fade.

Tonight I opened up the file that holds all her emails. I only was able to read a few of them before I closed the page. I had to stop when I read the following:
"You know, I loved turning 40. My husband had a surprise birthday party for me which was great and although I was diagnosed with PPH, I was thrilled to be 40 years old."

Karen turned 47 last month. She cherished every day she had since diagnosis.
Tonight I will go to sleep in the same bedroom as she once slept. Ironically I live in the same trailer that she lived in over 15 years ago.

I stood at the kitchen sink tonight, the one that she'd once stood at too and let my tears fall into the dish water. I know goodbye isn't forever but tonight it feels so final. Breathe easy Karen, breathe easy.

Owning My Own

To be able to bypass my head and speak from my heart feels like a gift. Even if I don't always want to embrace what my heart then reveals, I still recognize it as progress. Yesterday in a counseling session, as I explored why I felt anxious about certain things, I knew I had bypassed my head and got to the heart of the matter when I could feel the tears forming in my chest and start to well up in my eyes. At the same time I said the word shame outloud. I knew from my body reaction that I'd finally figured that one out. What had looked like it was about many other things ended up being about one thing and far from what I had said it was on the surface. On the surface it was about other people. Ha. Beneath the layers of talk and thinking was my own issue. A feeling of shame about something I did to someone else 35 years ago. A malicious act that I then had told in public 20 years later. What I'd been certain was about someone else's behaviour ended up being about my own shame that I'd carried for so long and was projecting onto them. Thank God that my counselor has enough patience to listen to my bullshit until I get to what lies beneath it.

No wonder peeling back those layers that resemble an onion often brings tears to the eyes. I'd been feeling anxious about someone else's behaviour for several weeks already. Had tried to talk to them about it, putting the owness on them to fix my anxiety. What I'd really wanted was for them to toe the line. My line. They deftly sidestepped that and put my anxiety back on my shoulders. Damn. After I saw where the root of the problem lay yesterday I was able to go back to them last night and tell them where my anxiety came from. I think that's called owning my own shit.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

A Dangerous Thing

"Let me tell you something, hope is a dangerous thing. It can drive a man insane."
~ Red in The Shawshank Redemption

Yesterday I picked about 8 gallons of peas from my garden. To help pass the time while shelling them I watched the above movie for the first time.

It got me thinking about the first stirrings of hope in my life. Just over 20 years ago I reached out to God and asked for help. It felt like the biggest risk I'd ever taken. I remember wondering what would happen if God turned his back on me the first time I screwed up. Then where would I be? Hopeless.

I remember rising from my knees relieved that I no longer had to try and change on my own strength. I felt hopeful. No matter how badly I've screwed up since then, and there have been major screw ups galore, there also has been a glimmer of hope that change was possible. There have been prisons of my own making. There have also been chains broken by the grace of God.

For today I can do this.
Thankfully I don't have to do this alone.
Some days feel more hopeful than others.
Just a glimmer is enough for me.

A Hint Of A Smile

There's a pureness to the morning air today that evokes a sense of contentment within me. A little bit of a chill combined with the sunshine make me feel grateful to be alive. Although being grateful for something that comes easily isn't really a big deal - the weather doesn't drive me batty very often - 40 below and snow for a week will do it - but little else does. I am glad to live in a part of the world where we experience all four seasons. Well, okay - they all make an appearance even if only for what seems like a day or two for the warmer ones and like a great aunt showing vacation slides for the coldest part of the year.

I've been gardening and mowing lawns and enjoying the summer sunshine this week. Usually by now we can see a few leaves starting to turn colour. That hasn't happened yet. I've sometimes wondered if the trees that leaf out the earliest in the spring are the ones to lose their leaves the earliest in the fall. One year I'm going to mark some of those trees and see if my ponderings bear any weight.

Dearest one came home yesterday from work absolutely exhausted after twelve hours straight of patient care and emergencies. It was so busy he missed all his coffee and meal breaks. When I went to bed last night, only a few minutes behind him, he was already sleeping. I thought he was waiting to scare me. It was so dark that I couldn't see my way to the bed. I said to him, "Did you pull the blinds?" Then I took a closer look and realized it was simply dark out and that was what was making it pitch black in our room. Then I said, "I know you are just pretending to be asleep. You're waiting for me to crawl into bed and then you're going to growl at me and scare me." Total silence from his side of the bed. I'm thinking he's really going to try and scare me this time. When I did finally find the bed and crawl in I was a little disappointed to find out he was truly fast asleep. We would have ended up in laughter had he really been waiting to scare me. He has this growl that has a hint of a smile in it and while I pretend to be scared we both secretly like it. I am so grateful for his sense of humour. Without it I would be far more serious about life than I am already. I envy him that ability to have his head hit the pillow and sleep to follow a few seconds later. This morning he asked me when I had come to bed.

I got him back real good once when he scared me. I waited a good long while before I pulled this trick. It was pitch black, not unlike last night, and I hid behind a wall that jutted out a little bit making it so he couldn't see me. I heard his footsteps coming and at just the right moment I jumped out and scared him. He was so startled that he nearly punched me before he realized it was me and not some intruder. That happened over 10 years ago and it still makes me laugh. It's not often that I get him back for all the hijinks he pulls. As you can see I savour each opportunity I get.

The next time you need to visit the emergency ward, have a stay in the hospital, or visit someone who is a patient there, say a little prayer of thanks for the nursing staff. Dearest one enjoys his job so much that many days he can't believe he gets paid to do what he does. Then there are days like yesterday when he's really glad there's a paycheck when all is said and done.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

An 80 Year Old Live Wire

I met the most lovely elderly lady the other day at a social function.
Her wispy hair looked a little matted, like she had put a hat on when her hair was wet. Her back was so hunched that she'd lost the ability to lift her head straight up to look at you. Instead she turned her head to the side and then looked up as far as possible. Her movements reminded me of a little bird. But her eyes. They were so full of life and humour and energy that I liked her immediately. What she lacked in youthfulness of body she made up for in her eyes.

We spent some time talking about gardening and canning. She has already put up 120 quarts of fruit this year. When she told me that I said, "Oh, and peaches aren't here yet." She told me that one of the local stores would have them this very week and how much they were for a ten pound box. I haven't done any canning in several years but one summer I did can 160 pounds of peaches. When I told her that she said, "You must have gotten 50 quarts at least." I smiled to myself. 50 quarts is exactly how many jars I had when I was done canning those peaches.

We ate our meal together and there was a lot of laughter. She's a live wire, a term mostly reserved in my mind, for little kids. Which is something to aspire to when one is 80+ years old.

Monday, August 11, 2008

Sane and Simple

It's dark enough at night now to see the stars again. From my pillow I could see the stars twinkling like Christmas lights through the trees during the night. I found that comforting. Throughout my childhood, when we would come home late on a clear night, we would look up at the stars.

In less than two weeks my parents and my sisters will gather at my house for supper. They live 600 miles away and are coming this way to attend oldest son's wedding. It will be the first time in my adult life that my parents and sisters will be together at my house. I can count on one hand the times any of them have been to my home in the 28 years since I left home. My parents are ageing and their health continues to decline. I am expecting this will be not only the 4th time they've been to my home, but also the last time they will make the trip.

One of the gifts of recovery is that I can stand back and take a simpler approach to having them here for supper. It will be the day after oldest son's wedding - which is taking place several hours from here - a day when I am expecting my spoon supply to be not quite up to par, so supper will be a weiner roast and salads with watermelon and ice cream for dessert. I am grateful that I can make a simple and sane choice. There was a time when simple and sane was outside my realm of possibilities.

Part of the Serenity Prayer talks about accepting the things I cannot change. Despite my inability to dictate the weather I am hoping to share a clear and starry night with my family.

PS: For all you Olympic sports fans - I was yelling at the TV last night watching the US 4x100 swim team go for the gold. That was a nail biter of a race.

Sunday, August 10, 2008

Safety and Reality

"Silence makes us vulnerable because when we stop making noise, we lose control: who knows what thoughts or feelings might arise if we turned off the television or stopped yammering for a while? Laughter makes us vulnerable because it often comes in response to our flaws and foibles: who knows how foolish we might look when the joke is on us? We can share silence and laughter only when we trust each other - and the more often we share them, the deeper our trust grows.

The soul loves silence because it is shy, and silence helps it feel safe. The soul loves laughter because it seeks truth, and laughter often reveals reality."

~ Parker J. Palmer in A Hidden Wholeness

Dearest one and I have gathered weekly with a small group of friends for the past 7 years. What started out as a book study (the book study is nearly finished now!) grew into a safe place where we could share deeply with one another. As a result we've become comfortable with silence and laughter in one another's presence. We've shared through the years of raising our children, most of us either have all adult children or nearly so, and are now sharing the journey of ageing parents. Two of us will soon welcome daughter-in-laws to our families within a week of each other.

Seven years ago, when we began to get together, we all attended the same church. Over time that changed. Our friends have not only walked beside us as dearest one and I embraced our faith within the Catholic Church, they have been supportive of our choice to do so. Together we've shared the seemingly roller coaster ride of addiction, depression, job changes and job loss plus many life changes. We've opened our souls to one another in a way that we realize more and more is not only beautiful but rare. I wish everyone could be so blessed.

Saturday, August 09, 2008

It's All Just Temporary

Last night brought some welcome relief from the heat wave we've been experiencing this week. Temperatures in the plus 30C range are quite a bit warmer than normal for this time of year in my neck of the woods. I am not a heat fan. Our little air conditioner was working overtime just to maintain a livable room temperature yesterday. When the rain fell last night and the air cooled rapidly it was a welcome reprieve. Today is supposed to be back up to 30C. C'est la vie.

My funky signature at the bottom of my posts lately is courtesy of a heads up from MPJ.It was fun to create. Yesterday as I was cleaning up around the house I must have come across close to 10 different objects with the word hope on them. I love me some hope.

Last night we enjoyed new potatoes and green beans from the garden. Raspberries from the same flavoured my breakfast yesterday, too. What a privilege to walk out the front door and spend 5 minutes picking enough goodness to help nourish this body for the day. It's been several years since I was healthy enough to do the work to maintain a garden. It's a gift to harvest her bounty.

Now that the Olympics are on I will be hoarding the TV remote more than my fair share. There's some irony in becoming a temporary couch potato in order to watch Olympic athletes show their muscles, discipline and skill. Go Canada Go!

Friday, August 08, 2008

Sharing The Treasure

Here are 3 good reads and 3 new to me blogs:

Creative Defiance

A Moving Letter ht to Owen

Interview with Heather King

A Room Of Mama's Own

Rae's Confessions

Trudging The Gentle Path of Happy Destiny

Go Deeper

" Embrace change -- knowing that life is always being reconfigured.
Befriend the person you are striving to become.
Welcome new paths. Enjoy the detours.
Strive to go deeper rather than just forward.
Know that most unnecessary demands come from the unfinished parts of self.
Beware of speed. It is often one's undoing.
Wholehearted is the way. Halfhearted will kill you.
Harness your evolvement.
Let go of what is outlived to make room for the unlived.

~ Joan Anderson in The Second Journey

Thursday, August 07, 2008

Give Me A Sign

This week, when I hit the one year anniversary of going to rehab, I sat down and wrote a letter to my treatment counselor. Yesterday I decided to drop it off in person. In my neck of the woods it's recently become law that no one can smoke within 5 meters of the entry to a public place. Around town there are signs on lots of stores to remind patrons of that fact. I imagine most people eyeball the distance and stand just a little farther from the door than they used to. Who knows.

I was walking up to the front door of the rehab center yesterday when I saw a sign reminding people of the new law. I thought to myself, "I wonder how often inpatients get told they are standing closer than 5 meters to the door as they light up their smoke." Next I wondered how much resistance the inpatients had when they were told that. Or how many times someone tattled on someone else who habitually got as close to the door as they could get away with.

Perhaps that sounds juvenile and ridiculous to you. During my 20 day stay there last summer I not only witnessed others acting juvenile over piddly things, I did it myself, too. I had a real hissy fit in group counseling one day about people in another group who would just not shut up during a multi group workshop. I complained about the facilitator who didn't enforce the 'no cross talk' rule and how rude these people had been and on and on I went. When my counselor pointed out that I could have put my hand up and asked those people to be quiet I said, "oh." It never occurred to me that I was capable of handling the situation myself. I'd expected the counselor to tell the other group's counselor about their behaviour and she was such a tough cookie, I figured she'd straighten them out. Then I'd be happy, joyous and free, right? That's rather embarrassing to admit but hey, since then I have spoken up more times than I can remember, instead of waiting for someone else to take responsibility for my attitude. We all have to start somewhere.

Within a few seconds of wondering how much conflict the 5 meter rule created I looked around and saw a tall white stick with a pointed end attached to the flower bed quite a ways from the entrance. Written on it in blue letters were the words: "5 meters". I laughed right out loud when I saw that.

I was still chuckling as I got back into my van. I glanced up and realized I was parked right in front of my old group counseling room and that it was time for the afternoon session to begin. The huge windows are covered in that material that lets people inside look out but prevents people outside from seeing in. It was all I could do to not make a big sign that said, "If there's hope for me, there's hope for you. Just ask your counselor."

Wednesday, August 06, 2008

Hope Needs.....

I got this meme from MPJ and had a bit of fun following the rules (imagine that!) Wait, I didn't follow the rules took 4 pages of google hits to find 10 "hope needs" that were not repeats or were appropriate.
The rules: Google your first name with the word "needs" behind it and post the first 10 results. Then tag others if you so desire. Consider yourself taggged if you so desire to be.

1. Hope needs some tough love. This was the very first hit. I thought to myself, who's been spying on me? I think it's a tie between fellow members in AA and Fr. Charlie for dishing out the most tough love my way. At the end of the day wanting God's will to be done in my life over my own will is what motivates me to consider, accept and stop kicking against truth spoken in the vein of tough love in my life. Notice I said at the end of the day. Some days it takes that long for me to stop kicking against it.

2. Hope needs help. Well isn't that the truth? On my own strength I am sunk. It's taken me a very long time to accept that needing help and then asking for it is a strength not a weakness. And it can be as simple as realizing shopping for a dress for the wedding should not be a solo event to picking up the 10 pound phone and calling my sponsor when I am wobbling in my program. I echo Anne Lamott when she says that one of her two favourite prayers is "Help me, help me, help me." (the other is 'thank you, thank you, thank you.)

3. Hope needs your prayers. Always. I wonder if we'll one day find out just how prayer impacted our lives and who it was that offered up that prayer in a moment when we desperately needed it. After dearest one and I became Christians, and we had moved back to this neck of the woods, I phoned up a next door neighbour we'd had when we were newlyweds. I said to her, "You're a Christian aren't you?" She then told me that she had long forgot our last name but every Tuesday for 7 years she had faithfully prayed for us when her church had a prayer and fasting day. I think we're going to be surprised, if we ever get to know, just who prayed for us and when.

4. Hope needs leadership, vision and direction. Which is why I daily put my trust in a Higher Power. I've spent many years journeying blindfolded while convinced I could see just fine thank you. Kind of like one long Pin The Tail On The Donkey game. I hope my angel is someone like Grace's Angel, Earl. That's what I picture my angel muttering constantly "Hope needs leadership, vision and direction."

5. Hope needs never die. Well Virginia, we're all going to die. At least physically. Sometime in the past year I came to the conclusion that the part of me that feels in union with God - in those nanosecond bits - is the part of me that will one day be united with God forever. Kind of like the essence of who I am, who I was created to be, will be perfected and I will be at home with myself in a way that rarely happens on earth. Anyway that's my take on it. I keep those thoughts in an open hand, accepting how little I really know about what happens next.

6. Hope needs no religion. Well, isn't that a loaded sentence? It all depends on a person's take on that 'r' word. It isn't a negative one for me but I accept it is for some people. I did lots of things religiously before I ever came into a relationship with God. Like badmouth all those hypocritical Christians around me. I see it like this: religion gives form to my relationship with God. Like a vase holds water. That may be an absolutely lousy analogy but for what it's worth the word religion doesn't make me bristle. I spent far too much time dismissing people because they were 'religious' and find myself perfectly capable of doing so today. Which means I still like to think I'm better than the next person. Lord have mercy. Here's a terrific post that I can relate to, can you?

7. Hope needs work. At first I thought this meant work as in a job. And yes, I do hope to find a part time job this fall. But when I just typed it in now I thought about it in the context of being a work in progress. Of which I continue to be. Which sums up the 6 needs above this one quite nicely.

8. Hope needs journals. I laughed when I saw this one. My very first journal was a black duo tang. It was the year my grandpa was diagnosed with cancer and I was 16. We were visiting my sister in another city, staying a hotel when my mom got the phone call that her dad had terminal cancer. I had just been kissed outside the hotel room door by an old friend who lived in this city. Anyway I came home and started writing about my feelings about life. Since then I've had many different journals. They've varied from being spiral notebooks to a fancy one with green ribbing and a magnetic flap. That one was my very favourite. It takes me 6 to 8 months to fill up a journal so I've decided from here on in to buy the one I really want instead of the one that will do.

9. Hope needs to get a life. As in the one I have isn't okay as it is? When I think of someone getting a life, myself included, I think about regaining perspective and not sweating the small stuff. Problem is that it usually takes experiencing big stuff to let go of the little stuff drama. One of my biggest goals in life is to become a little old lady whose countenance shows that she knows what's important and what's not. A countenance full of life, hope and sparkle. I doubt that getting one of those is possible without experiencing some hard knocks.

10.. Hope needs to walk away. From what? Oh, the list could be a long one. I prefer to think about what I need to walk towards, to embrace. I've walked away from a lot of things in this lifetime and am sure there is more changing directions yet to come. Every day.....this a new opportunity to just that. And now I need to walk away from the computer as dearest one just pulled into the driveway from working a night shift. And I'm going to walk towards him and embrace him. The man gives the best hugs.

Tuesday, August 05, 2008

Fall Where They May

I just spent half an hour picking peas in the garden. I sat on my little gardening stool and picked and ate to my heart's content. I let the pods fall where they may.
For those of you who listened to my radio documentary you'll understand how good and freeing it is to just let things fall where they land, instead of trying to throw the evidence out of sight.

Ready Or Not

Last night a friend and I put on a bridal shower for my soon to be daughter-in-law. When I signed the card for my gift it was a bit of a shock to see "with love, Mom and Dad W" written in my handwriting. That's how my mother-in-law has signed every card to dearest one and I these past 26 years. I suppose until my dying day I'm going to be faced with more and more situations where I ask myself, half jokingly, "Does this mean I'm old now?" Don't get me wrong. The ageing process itself doesn't particularly bother me. Well, other than having wrinkles, grey hair and pimples at the same time.

For the most part I see growing older as a privilege. From my brother Rodney to my friend Ron and my brother-in-law Abe, there have been too many premature deaths in our lives. People I will never stop wondering how they would be if they had had the privilege of ageing.

Every year that goes by though, I understand my mom and mother-in-law a bit better as they reflect on how their body and the age on their driver's licence doesn't jive with their innards. I think the last time my nearly 80 year old mother-in-law and I talked about it, she still feels 18 inside. My mom was a mother-in-law at age 39, a grandmother at 41. I still remember her saying, as my sister-in-law laboured, that she wasn't old enough to be a grandma yet.

Am I ready to be a mother-in-law? Are we ever ready for any stage of our life? It's probably a blessing that they come to us ready or not. I wonder if it isn't more what we do with the stage we find ourselves in than in readiness to be there.

After the bridal shower was over my friend (who will become a mother-in-law one week before me) and I watched the movie Monster-In-Law, starring Jane Fonda as the MIL. I've written before about my experience with my own mother-in-law and no doubt my soon to be daughter-in-law will have her own story to tell one day.

I might envy Jane Fonda's toned arms and flat belly but I have no aspirations to follow her movie role example as a mother-in-law.
Thanks be to God.

Monday, August 04, 2008

A Growth Opporutnity

"Anxiety is the space between 'now' and 'then.'"
~Richard Abell

One year ago today I was full of anxiety as I waited for my 2 pm. intake appointment at the local addictions centre. Once inside the locked doors I was going to sign on the dotted line for a 20 day stay. Staying meant following the rules or being asked to leave. One of those rules was making my bed every day. I set a life time record in following that rule and it's never happened since. My bed is unmade as I type.

Other habits I learned in those twenty days have stuck though. What a year this has been. There hasn't been a year in the past 25 where I haven't thought the past year was the best one yet but really, this past year has been the best. I can hardly recognize myself as I am today compared with a year ago. I am humbled and grateful that change is always possible. As I surrender and do the next right thing, change happens. I don't always want to and sometimes I choose to wallow in the mud like a two year old having a temper tantrum. But, by the grace of God, I get up eventually and carry on. If that isn't hope filled I don't know what is. I don't have to stay stuck in the mud forever.

Here is my favourite post from this past year. Dearest one and I both read it over this morning and grinned at each other. I spend more time these days in awe, than in feeling threatened, by his growth and healing. When I came out of treatment it was the scariest risk to move forward in healing and recovery accepting that my marriage might not survive the changes. It seems like such a paradox that the more we let each other see who we really are, the more we reveal our pain, our flaws, and our humanity, the closer we become. On our own strength we would never had made it. Our relationship with God undergirds it all and is where the strength to keep facing ourselves comes from. Knowing at a gut level how loved we are gives us the courage to love ourselves and one another.

The hard work, the showing up, the putting one foot in front of the other, is all worth it. You all share a part in it because you continue to show up here as well. I am especially grateful for your presence on those days when I feel like all is lost, or rather that I am lost. You remind me that whatever state I find myself in today, it has the potential to be a growth opportunity, and that even in the worst of moments, a ribbon of hope continues to weave itself throughout my journey.

Thank you.

Sunday, August 03, 2008

Help For The Seduced

"I may be powerless (over alcohol and my other addictions, over many things...) but that doesn't mean I'm helpless."

When I heard those words of wisdom yesterday I had a 'whoa, I need to rememeber that' kind of moment. Remembering that I am not helpless, that there are always choices to be made, could help me when I find myself being seduced by a victim mentality. You know, those times when I am pointing my finger at a person/situation/something and saying, "it's all your fault that I'm so miserable." Well, darlin', that's a load of bunk.

I can still get caught offguard when I think something is a done deal and then I realize there are options. I have a love/hate relationship with taking responsibility for my choices/my mood/my life. Well, except when others are trying to make my choices for me. Then it's very cut and dried. I can give Clark Kent a run for his money by how fast I can morph into a "back off and no one will get hurt" stance. Oh right, he was morphing so he could save someone else. I morph so I can save my pride. Ok, I'll just back quietly and slowly out of here.

Misery is optional.
That's my mantra for today.

Saturday, August 02, 2008

Really, Really

My goal for today is to do the next right thing whether I feel like it or not.
I don't feel like going to the hassle of getting ready to go to town for my AA meeting. I'm going anyway.
I could list a whole long list of don't feel like it stuff yet where would that get me? Welcoming a long slide into apathy. Apathy feels wretched. When I get to that point I want to wallow in it while hoping the feeling will pass. Which makes me remember a day 20+ years ago when I told a friend I was sitting there praying to be inspired to do the housework. She said that I had to get off my butt and pick up the broom and then maybe God would inspire me to do the rest. My response was really? She gave me a "really, really sweetheart" look. On days like today that little conversation reminds me to get off my butt and do the next right thing.

Friday, August 01, 2008

Acting Up

Time soon for bed.
It's been a good day.
A full blown pajama one.

My spoon supply feels refueled tonight.
I'm glad I listened to my body and took it easy today.

Blogger is acting up tonight.
Let's see if it lets me post.

Hey Babe

I am no extrovert.
I do not get my batteries recharged being around people.
I am going to relish being alone for the next 8 hours.

Yet, when I think of looking for part time work come fall, I want a job working with people, not a solitary job where I see no one.
This week has shown me that the stretching that comes by being
around others is good for me.
It gets me out of my comfort zone.
I love me some comfort zone.
Okay, I love whole fields of comfort zone.

And yet....

Yesterday as I was bemoaning my state of exhaustion
one of the women said, "Listen to that babe (referring to my age not my physique!!) over there."
Then I realized I was sitting next to an 86 year old woman
who came and volunteered just because.
She lives across the river so her day is at least
an hour longer than mine due to the commute.
I did some quick calculations which put me
in the middle of the pack as far as age goes.
All those younger than me had young children
to deal with at the end of a long day.
Surely those older and younger than me went home far more exhausted than I
but I was the only one complaining.

Funny how just one random comment
from someone else
can make me examine myself
and encourage me to grow.

Okay, not funny, but welcomed, anyway.