Freedom Is Accepting Yourself Right Where You’re At

A few posts ago I declared myself a fraud and think I also said something about being worthless, perhaps. I would like takesies-backsies on both of those.

Since then, I have spoken with both my Al-Anon super sponsor, and my therapist, Heather, and they have helped me learn something valuable.

I thought I was a fraud because the nearly year-long time I had spent going to Al-Anon had only gone into my head-sense, but had not traveled the 12 or so inches to my heart.

Both my super sponsor and my T. heartily disagreed, and I have to say I finally understand. I’ll explain why. It takes everyone WHATEVER IT TAKES and AS LONG AS IT TAKES to get to the next level in the program.

Just like it might have taken my sister getting arrested to get straight finally, it might have taken MY SISTER GETTING ARRESTED for me to take the focus totally off her and put it completely on me where it belongs. I gotta tell you it feels weird, but freeing, because I get to learn about my needs, and get to learn a lot about myself for the first time in a long time.

I don’t jump every time the phone rings anymore. In fact, the phone is eerily quiet. I’m journaling, and I’m eight days self-injury free.

The freedom that comes with accepting yourself right where you are means you don’t need to pretend. You don’t need to say you’re fine when you’re not. You don’t have to paste on a fake smile until your face hurts at a party. If you need to you can slip out and take a break. Or *gasp* not go at all. You don’t have to put yourself in situations that threaten the core of what you value, if you know those values. If you don’t – there’s freedom in working that all out.

The best part is we are not alone wherever we are on our journey. Our Higher Power (mine is God) is with us, talking us through it, holding our hand at the scary parts, walking ahead of us, lighting the way. He’s been there before. He’s done that. He knows exactly what it feels like. More importantly, He knows us way better than we even know ourselves.

This has been a post for the Christian Writers Blog Chain. The theme for July is FREEDOM!

As always, love you big. Peace out.

Five Steps To Knowing Yourself Better

Yesterday we talked about how there can be a disconnect when dealing with codependency. A disconnect within ourselves, with who we are, what our own needs, emotions, and feelings are.

Today, I would like to present five ways to get to know ourselves better. There are, of course, many ways. These are just five to get you started:

1 Make collages: Any magazines will do. Family Circle, Redbook, Vogue, Cosmo, to name a few. Sit down on the floor or at a table with several magazines spread around and a pair of scissors. Then flip through the pages and cut out anything that speaks to you. Faces, places, objects, famous people, nobody in particular, babies, adults, old people, trees, whatever that resonates to you at the moment. Put the cut out pictures in a pile separately. Later, glue them on a large blank paper or perhaps begin a sketchbook of collages and date them, keeping track of how you have changed.

2. Journal. I suggest a blank, unlined journal, for several reasons, but this must be purely your choice. The reason I suggest an unlined journal is because sometimes you might like to draw or sketch out what you’re feeling. Sometimes there just aren’t words to describe what’s going on. There’s no better way to describe a black hole, for instance, then to draw a black hole. And sometimes I like to paste in special things I’ve found that have meaning. A goose feather that fell next to me while I was writing one day, for instance. With journaling, you can be exactly whatever. No one is grading it. No one checks your grammar, spelling erors  errors, or whether or not you mention them. It is YOURS and YOURS alone. Keep it in a lock box if you wish. 🙂 Get to know yourself.

3. Create. Paint. Knit. Crochet. Make something out of clay. Write a short story or go big and write a novel. Getting creative can help you know yourself because the left side of our brains, which taps into creativity, also deals a lot with emotion. So GO, DO! Don’t be afraid of mistakes. Mistakes don’t count when you are using this creativity to know yourself. They don’t even figure into the equation. You might even consider paint-by-numbers if blank canvases freak you out. Yes!

4. Join a support group. Whether it’s Al-Anon or another support group, it’s important to find a place you’re comfortable to dig deep and TALK about yourself. When you talk in general about whatever the support group topic is, you will find yourself learning more and more about yourself.

5. Do the unusual thing. If you usually don’t walk during the day, WALK. If you usually don’t speak up for yourself, be bold for one day. Think about what you do, then do the opposite for one day, just to see how it feels.

As always, love you guys to pieces. Peace out. 🙂

Who Do You Think You Are?

When we spend our lives, or the majority of them, obsessing about another person – namely a relative or friend who is alcoholic – we lose pieces of ourselves until we no longer no who we are. We become so enmeshed with the other person we forget where they end and we begin. This is also called codependency, and it affects millions of people around the globe.

We become numb to our feelings, oblivious to our own needs, unable to name our emotions.

When I watched my sister sentenced, handcuffed, and taken away to jail on Tuesday, I didn’t cry. Nor did I cry when I spoke about it with my sponsor the next day or mechanically field call after call from “well wishers” wanting to know what had happened.

I didn’t cry when my doctor spoke softly with me about my depression, and changed my medication, told me I was severely dehydrated and needed to drink more water. I didn’t cry as he poked open my burn blister to drain it and gave me silvadene cream to treat it.  I didn’t cry as I explained my worthlessness to him. He asked how long I had felt like this, how often did I see my therapist? I told him as long as I can remember, and – once a week.

That evening I went to an Al-Anon meeting. It occurred to me on the way there that I’d been taking “Fake it ’til you make it” to an extreme. I had been saying all the right things at the meetings, wanting so hard to believe them. I read the Al-Anon literature, underlined the important parts, and it got into my head . . . but hadn’t traveled to my heart.

So – at the meeting, I shared my worthlessness, and I burst into tears. I apologized for them, of course. But people told me not to be ridiculous, don’t apologize for feelings. I’ve been teary ever since.

Gentle reader, I’m a big fat fake. I’m just now finding out who I am. I didn’t even know, when I bought CK 1 the other day, whether or not it was meant for women. That’s the measure of my clueless nature. I just knew I loved the smell, and I wanted it.

If I bore you, that is that. If I am clumsy, that may indicate partly the difficulty of my subject, and the seriousness with which I am trying to take what hold I can of it; more certainly, more certainly it will indicate my youth, my lack of mastery of my so-called art or craft, my lack perhaps of talent . . .

A piece of the body torn out by the roots might be more to the point. –James Agee

I dearly love you all. I DO know that much. Peace out.

Seven Signs You Aren’t Taking Care of YOU

When we live with or love an alcoholic, when we are a parent, or a wife, a co-worker, a small business owner, and on and on, it can become very easy to put others first in our lives.

Sometimes it becomes so easy the lines get blurred and we lose ourselves in the process.

Here, for your light-hearted Friday before Friday the 13th, are seven signs you aren’t taking care of yourself:

1. When your feet hit the floor after you get out of bed, your first thought is of someone else. Yes, maybe you have children to feed, a husband to get off to work. Maybe you are concerned whether or not your hungover son/daughter/sister/husband/wife will make it into work and how you will handle it. We all have responsibilities. But if you don’t take care of YOU FIRST, in some small way, you’re no good to anyone else. 

2. You read another loved one’s horoscope before your own. Enough said. 😉

3. You’re the first to volunteer for committees, bake sales, and block parties – LONG after you’re overburdened. Hey – volunteerism is wonderful. I do it myself. But have you ever noticed, especially in a church home, there is a small percentage of people who can ALWAYS be counted on to do anything? Don’t be one of those. Burn-out city. Trust me. 🙂

4. Friends call you a whirling dervish, because they hardly see you anymore. Worse yet, they stop calling at all. Staying connected is important. I read a study that serotonin levels in people who are shut-ins goes up just by spending time on Face Book. So imagine how much happier face-to-face contact makes us! We need touch, we need hugs, laughter, all these things to remind us we are not alone in life.

5. Your dentist no longer recognizes your name, and says they have no information about you on file.  

6. You stop speaking up for yourself, and all the boundaries you’ve worked so hard to build start to wobble and weave.

And the last sign you aren’t taking care of you?

7. When you are in a car crash, your car sliding around on ice, before it comes to a stop, the lives that flash before your eyes are everyone else’s except your own. 

Dear Reader, please take care of yourself. You are the only YOU there is.

Peace out.

Seven Steps to Change When That’s The Last Thing You Want

It’s the truth. Change isn’t easy. Ask the caterpillar who morphs into a beautiful butterfly. He spends all the time in a cocoon. No one asked him if he wanted to become a beautiful butterfly. Did they? He just became one, over time.

We don’t really have a choice, either. We change, or stagnate. Things that stagnate become stale, foul, sluggish, and dull.

If you really hate change, like some of us do, here are seven steps to help you get through in roughly one piece 😉 :

1. Put your worries in a God Box. Or a cookie jar, or whatever works for you. Just writing the worries about upcoming changes can release anxieties within is. That helps defuse them. It helps distance the worry so you can move on and plan for change instead of dwelling on it.

2. Rehearse in your car. Little changes can help you build up your resilience to bigger changes. So next time you are stuck behind someone slow, or a person swerves in front of you in traffic, PRACTICE. Breathe deep, remember other people around you have the same problems, they get inconvenienced too. It’ll help you respond to the bigger changes later.

3. Return to an old favorite. When we’re going through changes, it can help to revisit something that turned us on in the past, that we haven’t done in a while. It strengthens our confidence and makes getting used to the changes around us easier by half.

4. Read up on your role models. Pick up anything that inspires you, even if it’s a novel. A character from The Devil Wears Prada can help us realize change is possible and keep us focused on our goals.

5. Make a checklist. Just write three things on the list: Situation, Support, and Self (not necessarily in that order). Always be asking ourselves: What is one good thing about my situation?, Am I letting others support me? and third, What can I do to ease my transition? Personally I LOVE checklists. Making little checks and saying “done,” gives me a thrill. 🙂

6. Coping strategies. This could be as simple as taking up a new hobby like gardening to getting into therapy, getting a massage, asking friends for advice, going for meditative walks . . . use your imagination. The possibilities are endless.

7. Develop a 3-step plan. If, for example, you’ve decided you want to attend Al-Anon: Find a local meeting, Get a temporary sponsor, Begin to read the Big Book of Al-Anon

This has been modified and changed from the article: “Help! I hate change!” in Woman’s World magazine, July 16, 2012

Peace out.

Insecure Writers Unite!

Often I wish I were already famous, like Hemingway, or Fitzgerald. I wonder how they would have dealt with family problems. Would they let it stop their writing cold, or would they just plow full steam ahead, as if nothing had happened?

Last month was a difficult month for me. I got zero done on my WIP. I did start a new story. It’s based on truth, fictionalized of course. I’m including the very beginning of it here for your perusal and, of course, critique and comments.

Barter for a glass of vodka is like a highly-skilled hostage negotiation. I have nothing tangible to offer, no currency. There is nothing more valuable than what she clutches in her hands.

She looks up at me from hooded lids, slumps against the back of the couch, sits on a carpet stained with wine spills and holes where cigarettes have missed their ashtray. 

“Here’s the thing,” I venture. “How about I hold your glass for you just until we can get you on the couch and off the floor, then give it back to you?”

She mumbles something unintelligible but I think I hear the word “okay” somewhere which I mistake for compliance.

As I reach for the glass, she bends forward with it awkwardly, like a puppet on a string, careful not spill a drop.

“Julia, I promise to give it back to you. I promise.”

She still holds on. I know EMS will be here soon. I sit down next to her on the floor. 

That’s it. That’s all I have so far. Tear it up. Be as critical as you can. I am subbing this to Glimmer Train hopefully. It won’t have a happy ending, but I don’t think they always expect that.

I hope you are all doing well. Peace out.

~~~~~

This has been a post for the Insecure Writers Support Group, which meets the first Wednesday of every month.

It’s July Already? Step Seven Time!

The 7th step says: “Humbly asked Him to remove our shortcomings.”

This is an image of the 3rd Step Prayer Book Marker available at hazelden.org, in their bookstore. On the other side is the 7th step prayer, which reads as follows:

My Creator, I am now willing that you should have all of me, good and bad. I pray that you now remove from me every single defect of character which stands in the way of my usefulness to you and my fellows.Grant me strength, as I go out from here, to do your bidding. Amen.

That prayer is taken from p. 76 from the Big Book of AA.

To me, Steps 4, 5, 6, and 7 are all closely linked. We take our inventories in step four, so that we KNOW our shortcomings and character defects, then we share them with our higher power, ourselves and someone else we trust in step five; in step six we become entirely ready to have God remove all these defects of character, and in step seven the READINESS and WILLINGNESS turns to ASKING.

I’m on the first two of these action steps. I’m in a small women’s group, going through the Blueprint for Progress, which is a detailed fourth step. We share with each other the progress we are making, and it’s very intimate sharing, sometimes much like a fifth step. Of course I will share again with my super sponsor when we are finished with the book.

But I’m getting practice now. And every day I ask God to remove my shortcomings, of which there are many. I still operate from fear a lot of times when I should be operating out of trust in Him. I procrastinate. I get lazy. I walk my dog before the sun rises in the early morning because I worry I won’t be able to handle her around other dogs or people. I don’t trust myself to write the stories I want to tell. I miss meetings I need to go to. I don’t call my sponsor when I get scared. I watch mindless TV instead of writing in my journal. I haven’t knitted in days and days. I don’t call my friends.

These are all shortcomings. They are my weak, sore spots, and I cry out to God to remove them. Thankfully, He doesn’t do it all at once, and He is gentle with me. But He will do it, because He loves me too much to leave me the way I am.

There’s something so much better out there.

Humility is key. Never be to proud to ask for help.

Love you guys. Peace out.