Sunday, November 29, 2009

No Script Required

"The next time you come in you get a free card."

The store clerk hands me the purple buy-10-get-one-free card and I turn to go out of the store. That's when I remember my sponsor. It's her sobriety birthday tomorrow and getting her a card was on my list. Somewhere between reading dozens of cards saying Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays I'd completely forgot. I turn back to the cards and start looking halfheartedly for the right card. After all, thanks to all those Merry Christmas cards I just paid for, I could get her card for free. However my brain is overloaded with looking at cards so I turn and walk out of the store before I find her a card.

In between being at that store at 10:30 in the morning and buying groceries at 4 in the afternoon I packed a lot of day. A great home group AA meeting. I had the tires balanced on my car. I spent some time with youngest son. I figured out what to buy dearest one for Christmas.

The sun is starting to set as I make my way into the grocery store, one of those stores where you can buy just about everything but the kitchen sink. I make my way down the card aisle and start looking for a card for my sponsor. The next day I'm going to be presenting her with a group card and a medallion. I always buy her a separate card that expresses my feelings for her. Sometimes when I pick out cards I know I've got just the right one when tears spring up from within as I read it. That didn't happen this time but I knew the card was the right one when I read it.

This morning I drove to town to my sponsor's home group meeting. There are two birthdays and as the cards for them are going around the room, I see that one is the same as the one I bought my sponsor. I sit there and wonder if it's for her or for the other woman celebrating today. The meeting begins and soon I forget there are even cards going around. Until the card gets passed to me. I open it and find my sponsor's name in it. Identical to the one I bought for her. I lean over and whisper in her ear that I bought her the exact same card.

Often I'm distracted in meetings by the kerfuffle going on in my head as other people speak. Lately I've been asking God to help me trust that if I'm supposed to speak that He'll give me the words. After all,there is no script required. When I have not the foggiest idea what I'm going to say it helps me not take myself quite so seriously. I also get to absorb what other people have to share when I stop worrying what I'm going to say. Who'd a thunk that it's not all about me!

I get called up to present my sponsor with her card and medallion. On the spur of the moment I decide to read the card out loud to everyone present. I am pleased as punch that someone else picked the same card to describe my sponsor and I tell them that.

Tears might not have sprung up when I originally picked that card out but when I start reading it they do. I have to stop reading until I can talk without crying. Sometimes tears say more than words ever can.

Friday, November 27, 2009

Mending Time

"These clasps have come loose. They need to be fixed."

He flung the purple robe in my direction and I caught it as he turned to greet another parishioner. Once again I was stunned by his abrupt way of asking for something to be done. Perhaps one day I will not be reckoned mute by the words that sometimes come out of other people's mouths, my parish priest, included.

For months I took offense at his abrupt way. Every single Sunday he'd give me what sounded like orders and then my lips would purse tightly together as I attended to the request of the moment. "Does he have any idea he sounds like he is ordering me about? I bet he thinks he is asking." I thought about telling him just that but I knew my anger would spew out with the conversation and so I didn't. Instead I fumed. I took the cultural differences personally. His clipped ways often triggered for me feelings of being a powerless child. He had no idea how close I came one Sunday to sticking out my foot and tripping him as he went past my pew at the end of Mass.

I complained loudly and often to Father Charlie about this priest, all the while knowing and feeling irritated, that my reaction to this priest was my problem. Father Charlie had little to say, mostly he let my anger hang in the air. I talked about how my anger seemed out of proportion to the events that triggered it. Eventually I told Father Charlie that I wouldn't bitch to him one more time until I'd spoken to the priest in question. Which I did. I brought up something that really needed to be addressed and left his office still feeling like kicking him. And so it went.

It took nearly a year for me to see what a scapegoat I'd made of this priest. Misplaced all my anger right on his shoulders. It was only through the anguish of this past summer that my intense anger towards him subsided. One Sunday in particular, when I was feeling bruised and broken emotionally, this priest's simple and kind "Good afternoon" to me as we readied things for Mass brought instant tears to my eyes. My tears caught me totally off guard. I continued with my tasks and then went to the back of the church to get things ready for the processional. A few minutes later this priest came to where I was standing and asked if I was okay. Tears were still leaking out the corners of my eyes and I could only shake my head 'no' as we assembled for the procession.

Somewhere in the simple kindness of his greeting, my anger evaporated. I ceased dumping it on his shoulders. Of course years of cultural differences were not going to disappear in a day. When I stopped kicking against that reality the fight went out of me. We've had a decent relationship ever since. Father Charlie only smiled when I told him I finally owned my anger.

I thought about all this today as I emptied my change purse onto the kitchen table. Out rolled 5 pennies, 3 AA medallions and a lone clasp. I'd taken the loose clasp off the purple vestment way back in April and stuck it in my change purse for safekeeping. With Advent about to begin on Sunday, today was the day to fix it. As I sewed the clasp back in place I was grateful for the time to do some mending.


Perspective is such a gift. I can't help laughing at myself whenever I watch this video:

Monday, November 23, 2009

Sleeping Dogs

"I thought you'd be mad if I let you sleep."

I look at her and think to myself, "You've got to be kidding me."

We're attending a weekend retreat. It's been one of those longer than long days. It means team meetings that seem to go late into the night. I don't know her well, and she obviously doesn't know me that well, either. Team members I've known for years would have let sleeping dogs me sleep. They know that a ten foot pole isn't long enough to wake me up with, once my head hits the pillow. Poor woman.

She looks at my face and wanders away, sitting next to someone who is cheerful and awake. I sit there in my grumpy headed state, and scowl. My scowl is as easy to read as a neon sign at night. I listen to the cacaphony of voices around me, 50 women, chipper and loud, and long for my warm bed. I tell one of the team leaders that I am going back to bed when the meeting starts and is mercifully short.

As I drift off to sleep I hear the woman without the ten foot pole, say to someone else, "That one, over there, she likes to sleep." I think something along the lines of you've got that right, except in more colourful language, and the next thing I know it's morning.

I wake up in a much more civil mood. Not rested, but better. No longer scowly. I go to the woman who woke me up and tell her I am sorry for being such a grump the night before. She looks at me and says, "You were grumpy?" Then she laughs and says, "Yes, you were."

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Schmuckety Schmuck

Those Puglies are waiting for dearest one, who's been gone since yesterday morning, to come home. When it was bed time last night I went looking for the Energizer Bunny (on the left) and she was laying on the arm of the loveseat looking out the window, waiting for him. I'll be gone when dearest one comes home tonight and I can only imagine the ruckus that will ensue when they see his car come in the yard. They put their front feet on the bay window and point their noses straight up in the air and howl. Then they race up and down the hallway, trying to figure out which door he'll come in. They are pure love in action.

Dearest one is in city far away. Wish I could give the details. He has accomplished something pretty huge and I am incredibly proud of him. Wish I was there with him but we couldn't make it work to be together as he celebrates several years of hard work completed. I will be away from home from this afternoon until Sunday night.

Those Puglies did sleep in bed with me last night. They jump up on the bed - the bed that is so high off the floor that we put a chair in the right spot so they can jump in - and then they just walk all over a person until they find the spot they want for the night. My skin hurts to be touched. If you would put your finger anywhere on my limbs and push I would be in pain. I forget that until there is a Pug standing on my arms or legs as they try to settle in for the night. Ouch. I have two little Pug paw shaped bruises on my leg to show for it.

As I'm fond of saying, of most anything,
"If that's my biggest problem in life, then I have no problems."
We live such a privileged life.
I've had several things happen this week to remind me of that.
Unbloggable, but definitely perspective shifting events.
Perspective is a gift.

And then there are times when I lose persepctive and my God reminds me what a schmuck I'm being. Like yesterday. I had to drop something off at the hospital, where parking is atrocious. As I turned onto the hospital grounds I started to pray for a parking space and then gave my head a shake. I know there is nothing too small to pray about but praying for a parking space is a pretty self serving kind of prayer in my books. So I stopped that and instead gave thanks for having the ability to walk wherever I need to and so if I had to park blocks away, big friggin deal.

And then I make a right turn, to the place up top where there are 5 parking spots right outside the hospital doors. There is one spot open and instead of being grateful, I start grumbling to myself that I will have to parallel park. See? I can be such a schmuck sometimes. I hate parallel parking. Then I get the proverbial smack up the side of the head, the reminder that jeesh there are some people who would complain if their ice cream was cold, or say, if they get a parking spot right outside the hospital doors and don't have to use those two perfectly fine legs to walk very far.

Saturday, November 14, 2009

The Darkness Does Not Own Me

North of the 55th parallel the days are getting noticeably darker, earlier. I feel tired more than not. Or at least it seems that way. Up here we don't count days to Christmas, but rather days until the Winter Solstice, after which, hopes grows with every minute of increasing daylight. Yes, we count by minutes. Or at least I do.

Advent will soon be here. Nearly four years ago I went on an Advent Retreat and wrote the prayer below. The shame of sexual addiction was so huge for me that day. I didn't write about what was underlying that prayer until this post. The scariest, most vulnerable post I have ever written.

Recovery is about choosing, on a daily basis, to turn towards the Light. I am grateful for the grace to do that. I rarely write about my recovery from sexual addiction anymore. It no longer seems to be the ravenous wolf, trying to eat my very soul, that it once was. I know though, that it can be just as cunning, baffling and powerful, as alcoholism. I stay aware, I stay accountable. I depend on God's grace. Every day.

I thought I'd repost this prayer today.

"Oh God, you know the darkness within. As my compulsions become less and less satisfying and more and more frantic I sense you calling me to give them up to the Light. It is hard to trust that you are enough. My head knows it but my heart feels scared to receive the truth of it. My body wants to be kept in a cocoon, safe from what scares me. Yet you beckon to me with whispers of freedom, to learn what it truly means to live, yes, truly live, in my body, connected to both mind and heart.
A symphony of movement that carries no burdens, is hampered by no fears. "Be light," I hear you say.

I want to trust that this light will satisfy me on every level. But I am scared. And I am tired of being scared. Being scared feels heavy and rough and hard. And alone.

I am scared that the voice of perfection will drown out your voice of love. So I do not try. I long to but turn my body away from you, scared to expose my naked soul to the light of your love. I am turned more towards the dark than the light yet there is a glowing red ember of your love within me. You are waiting to breathe your life into it. The darkness does not own me. It is not stuck to me but I to it. It is I who must move away.

As I enter into the Advent season I choose to turn towards the light, naked of soul before you. My cupped hands offer you the darkness within. It does not want to have the breath of light upon it but I cannot carry the burden of it with me on the journey. You want me to kow what it is to fly free.

My head knows you are the great comforter but these dark places have been my comfort for so long. They have become dry in their nourishment. I must suckle at them no more.

Bread of life feed me. Be my nourishment for the journey. Be the light for my path.


Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Unerring Instinct

"...couples choose each other with unerring instinct for finding the very person who will exactly match their own level of unconscious anxieties and mirror their own dysfunctions, and who will trigger for them all their unresolved emotional pain."
~ Gabor Mate

Saturday, November 07, 2009

Within Me

"It sure is nice out today."

That's dearest one's code language for
let's talk about something else.
Being in a vehicle with dearest one
is one of my favourite places to be.
We have the best conversations while driving.

This particular morning we were getting honest about someone who rubbed us both the wrong way. As we talked I started to wonder why I was shoving all kinds of feelings off onto this person. One of those times when I slowly realized that it wasn't about the other person being who they are, but about how my reaction to them was about me. All me. It was while processing this out loud, and getting dangerously close to the truth, that dearest one asked me to shut up already. Well, he said it nicer than that, but that was the gist of it.

I'd read not too long ago how we circumvent breakthroughs because we try and run the other way when the feelings get too uncomfortable. I decided not to run but to stay with the dawning realization that was forming in my mind. As we navigated the exit loop off the highway, I asked myself a question out loud. Told dearest one that's the question I needed to sit with.

And then it was too late.
The truth was staring us both in the face
like a flashlight that hurts the eyes.

There is something about voicing things out loud
that can be far more startling
than just thinking them to myself.
I can dismiss something far easier if I never say it outloud.
If I only think it,
I can put it in a box
that I never plan on finding again.

I may not like the particular person we were talking about
any more than I did before dearest one and I had this conversation.
But at least I know, in that there's no going back kind of way,
that the problem lies within me.

"Every time you find yourself irritated or angry with someone, the one to look at is not that person but yourself. The question to ask is not, "What's wrong with this person?" but "What does this irritation tell me about myself?"
~ Anthony DeMello

Thursday, November 05, 2009

A Form Of Prayer

I light these candles often. I call them my prayer candles. The pretty blue one on the far left is lit for Pam and her family. As I light the candles I say out loud the name of the person I am praying for. Today is a day of praying mostly for people who have had loved ones die. Some I know personally, some are in the news. As I lit the last one I teared up and cried. Being teary is my least favourite vulnerable feeling. Even when I am all alone like I am this morning. Years ago a nun told me that tears are a form of prayer. You can't see it in this picture but the little bowl has the words "let it be" inscribed in it. I have a rock with the word Hope in it, too. I like to think of leaving my cares in that bowl.

Anyway I went looking for something on youtube to cheer myself up. I found this:

It made me tear up too.
Happy tears.
My mom played this soundtrack when I was little.
When I left home I took that piece of vinyl with me.
As part of an ongoing amend I no longer play it at 7 in the morning, full blast, just to piss someone off as part of a payback scheme for pissing me off. Not one of my more brilliant moments. It's been 30 years and I'm betting that long ago neighbour doesn't wince and think of me when he hears this song. Actually I played the Goatherd song full blast that morning. Hurts my ears just thinking about it. I'm grateful I've learned to give voice to my feelings instead of resorting to passive aggressive moves to get my point across.

Sunday, November 01, 2009

Merciful God

"God, I've got a bad attitude."

I'm talking to God in my head
as I go about getting the altar ready for Mass.
I'm feeling tired and cranky.
Teary, too.
I don't want to be of service today.
I want to be on the receiving end only.

I had dragged my sorry butt to Mass at the last minute,
hoping someone else had readied the altar,
had seen to all the little details
of preparation.
No such luck.
So I grumbled to God and went about His business.

The Mass had barely begun when tears pricked my eyes.
I still wanted to curl up in a ball and cry.
With only a scant handful of people present
it would be hard to pull that off
without making a spectacle of myself.

Instead I went and was the altar server.
Keenly aware of being so close
to the consecration.
Sacred space.

Yesterday I'd shared a part of my story
that is still in the process of healing,
with a large group of women.
Normally I look forward to giving these talks.
I usually feel confident and find them life giving.
Not so yesterday.
It was one of those times when I shared what I did
out of a sense of obedience.
In a not my will, but Yours be done kind of way.
Resistant all the way.

Many of these women I have known for
10 years. They just didn't know this part of my story.
Afterwards one came to me and confided
that she is in the midst of experiencing
my not too long ago nightmare.
I can only hope that my vulnerability
was a ray of hope for her.
I came home and told dearest one I wanted to
curl up on his lap and lay with my head on his shoulder.
That would work fine if I was the size of a child
but not so well as an adult.

So instead we went and lay down together.
I curled up in his arms and laid my head
on his shoulder.
We slept the sleep of the dead.
After not too many hours awake
we went back to sleep.
I slept 10 hours straight.
The Pugs must have sensed my insecurities
because they both wanted to lay
as close to me as they could.

Today I am still feeling vulnerable and exposed.
Insecure, too.
My joints hurt and my muscles feel weary.
I went through the motions at Mass.
All the while having a running dialogue in my head with God.
Not that I actually heard anything back.
I do have faith though, that God not only understood
me but accepts me as is, in my irritability, and vulnerability.

My need for affirmation today is strong.
I hate feeling like that.
I tend to judge myself as weak
for needing it.
It is what it is.
This too shall pass.