Faith

Performance Anxiety Redux

wpid-20150526_080944.jpgAll right. This is not an apology, this is an explanation. There’s a reason I have been so flaky lately with my posts . . . well, this whole entire month, specifically.

Last year, when I tried to crochet Christmas presents, I didn’t start working until like October or even November, and of course didn’t get finished in time. I have a large family. So this year I began in January. So far I have two granny square blankets crocheted. I just have to put them together. I’m working on my third (pictured above) which looks like snowflakes! I have 30 out of 88 squares done.

Anyway, we’re here to talk about performance anxiety, and the causes and helps for it. The three main causes of PA are:

  • Mild social anxiety.
  • Inexperience in public.
  • Strong distaste for failure

As with most anxiety problems, it’s hard to know the exact cause, but performance anxiety is also self-sustaining, because it creates a mindset that focuses only on mistakes and seeing others as judging you. One small mistake, even if no one notices, or one person in the audience that looks unhappy and all of your fears are reinforced, causing more performance anxiety to happen later. No matter the effects of anxiety, there is no denying that anxiety itself can create more anxiety. The more you are worried about your performance, the more your performance suffers.

Some strategies which can help in overcoming performance anxiety are:

  • Pre- and Post- Presentation Positive Writing Exercises – Since anxiety is a problem with negative thinking, one way to combat anxiety is to force yourself to think positively. An example of this type of exercise includes writing out 10 or 20 genuinely positive thoughts about how you performed or will perform. It’s not perfect, but it will stop you from focusing only on the negative.
  • Positive Support – You also need support from others. It’s easy to think about the negatives when you mess up – or when you have the possibility of messing up. But if you can find people in your life that are always supportive, you won’t care as much about any mistakes because others in your life will make things easier. Positive support is very helpful for this type of anxiety.
  • Happy Distractions – Much of performance anxiety is not what happens at the time of the event, but what occurs before and after it. This is when the mind can wander into negative thoughts. Keeping yourself mentally active and busy prevents the mind from focusing on the negatives, especially if you can focus on more positive activities like going outdoors and spending fun time with friends.
  • Practicing Under Pressure – It is often hard to practice under pressure, because practice itself rarely has that much pressure. But if you can get used to being under pressure situations, then when you actually face some type of pressure it won’t cause as much anxiety. For example, if you are giving a speech, do it in front of smaller crowds and work your way up to the bigger ones. If you are playing sports, practice playing where people challenge you with noise and energy – just like you would experience in a big game. This will help you get used to some of the components of pressure situations, even if it doesn’t resemble it completely.

 

Fino a domani, I miei amici! Mwah!

 

Positive Psychology

comic-positive-psychologyTo prepare for this blog post, I read Martin Seligman’s Authentic Happiness in two days. It was a pretty major feat for me, since I’m usually a slow reader, especially when it comes to nonfiction material. This book, minus the index pages, notes, and acknowledgements, came to 260 pp. But I was excited about it, especially since my sister had recently begun therapy again with someone who used only positive psychology techniques. She had recommended this book to Carol, and when I tried to get two copies at B&N, they only had one, so I read it as fast as I could.

I have a few criticisms, mostly that it’s so non-measurable. Positive psychology believes in emphasizing a person’s signature strengths, rather than focusing on weaknesses, and I can get behind that for sure. There are 24 signature strengths, but if you take the test, which you can, at the Authentic Happiness website, you’ll find 250 separate questions. It takes some time, but be as honest as you can. When you are all done, it will spit back your strengths to you. For instance, mine are: appreciation of beauty and excellence, kindness and generosity, creativity, ingenuity, and originality, humor and playfulness, and forgiveness and mercy. My top strength is appreciation of beauty, so I’m supposed to use that as much as I can, but all of them really.

“Authentic happiness comes from identifying and cultivating your most fundamental strengths and using them every day in work, love, play, and parenting.” — Martin Seligman

What I really didn’t like was the chapter on love. It was all about romantic love. Now, honestly, I’m not against romantic love, truly, I’m all for that, you know? But there are other kinds of love that deserve mentioning. What about familial love? What about mother daughter love? Or Father son love? What about friendship?

And Seligman seems to believe the bedrock of all this is some sort of faith. Sorry, but faith and I parted ways a while ago. I’ve been Roman Catholic, then Protestant by way of Presbyterian and lastly Southern Baptist. I haven’t been to any church at all in years. I don’t even think I remember how to pray. If I have any faith at all, it’s in nature, that the sun will rise every morning and set every night.

According to Seligman, we can’t blame our past for the fact that we are on welfare, or that we have become unemployed, alcoholic, or whatever. If we were abused, or our parents divorced, it’s history. What we make of our lives today is on us. 

In the end, I think we could all do with a little more positivity in our lives. I’ve been to too many therapists where the first question out of their mouths was, “What can you tell me about your childhood?” AAAUUUGGHH!

Have a great and productive day!

Ciao Bella.

Exposure Is Like A Four-Letter Word

exposureOr at least, it should be, and that’s the word fear. In the book I’m reading about social anxiety disorder, Dying of Embarrassment, there is lots of talk about exposure as the main solution to dealing with most anxious and troubling situations.

The first part of the book helps one figure out what exactly is distressing and anxiety provoking. It’s all very individual, of course. Then we’re supposed to put it in a hierarchy, like from least anxiety-provoking, to moderately anxiety-provoking to severely anxiety-provoking. I’m just reading this book to read it for now. When I sit down to really look at situations and make a list it’s going to take me a while, because my knee-jerk reaction is always “It’s all severely anxiety-provoking! What do you think got me into this mess?!”

Exposure therapy (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Exposure_therapy) as a form of torture began in the 1950s. It’s also known as flooding. Of course, I’m kidding about the torture part (a little). I only say that because I’m actually considering it and I’m afraid. The next section of the book (I forgot the part about the coping skills and changing cognitive distortions) is actually doing it. Exposures take two forms: in vivo (real life) and imaginal (in the imagination). Before we do an actual in vivo exposure, we’re supposed to take ourselves through a few imaginal exposures.

In imaginal exposures, everything is imagined as detailed as possible. All the smells, the sounds, are people sweating, etc., get as detailed as possible. Then go through the situation and let your anxiety rise as you sit through it. Go through the anxiety and stay with it because it will go down again the longer you stay with it, as you remember your breathing exercises and so on.  You might imagine absolute success or you might imagine marginal failure and how you would come at your cognitive distortions in the imaginal exposure.

In in vivo exposures everything is real. The book never mentions this, but to me it is like taking someone who is afraid of snakes and throwing them into a pit of vipers! Of course, it’s not that dramatic, because there’s the hierarchy list; the list of lesser anxiety-provokers and higher anxiety-provokers. So it’s much more within the control of the person with social anxiety disorder. For example, let’s say you’re afraid of public speaking. You might start with saying hello to your neighbor when you’re both working in your backyards. Then a medium task might be giving a talk at the high school. A severe task would be giving the baccalaureate speech for your daughter’s friend’s graduation.

If you read this far, God bless you, Geshundheit, please place your trays in their upright positions, and thank you for not smoking.

coffee

Just Relax

RelaxThere must be quite a few things that a hot bath won’t cure, but I don’t know many of them. ~Sylvia Plath, The Bell Jar

Tension is who you think you should be. Relaxation is who you are. ~Chinese proverb

Life should be touched, not strangled. You’ve got to relax, let it happen at times, and at other times move forward with it. ~Ray Bradbury

It seems like everywhere I go people are talking about relaxation these days. My therapist asks me about my stress level, like it’s something that can be quantified, measured on a daily basis. lying down

I probably mentioned already that I’m participating in an study for bipolar disordered people on a site called Optimism. I love the name, but the site is both complicated and ambiguous.

The site tracks your mood every day, how well you coped, hours slept, quality of sleep, whether or not you exercised, and took medications, if relevant (here’s where I find some ambiguity. It doesn’t ask if your meds make you feel like you’re on auto-pilot, or so thirsty you could drink a gallon of water and it wouldn’t be enough, so tired you’d just run a marathon…only you hadn’t). It then goes into three different categories: stay well strategies, triggers, and symptoms. 

Relaxation fits under the Stay well strategies, along with adequate sleep, plenty of water, and routine, just to name a few. I use a relaxation cd daily. One of the choices on the cd is A Walk on the Beach. The narrator uses the elevator technique to take me deeper down, until I’m so relaxed I’m actually somewhere way in the basement. Ha ha ha

If only it would stay. Not minutes after that, I checked my email, and there was something from an editor or promoter of a book I’ve signed up to read on Netgalley. Now, I love reading more than anything, and I just finished my third book for them. I have three more books in the queue before the book this promoter spoke of. All the relaxation I’d just had given to me went right out the window. I had no idea what to say to this person, so I took my usual route. Say nothing, and keep plodding along. My dog, Lucy, would have peed on the email and gone on her happy way. 😀 We should all be so lucky.

dog

Gambling on Goals

goalsGoals are so crazy popular, aren’t they? I mean, I went looking for one quote on goals for this post, just one, and they were all so contradictory. Some said set your goals high and don’t stop ’til you achieve them. Others said it starts with the spirit, and if that wasn’t true, forget about it. Then there’s the one who says to set small goals and build upon them. So even the meaning of the word goal is somewhat sketchy.

I know of a famous, at least famous on my terms, writing website, which has a whole board (forum) dedicated to the topic of goals and the achievement (or not) thereof. I belonged to it at one time. I did find it somewhat useful, but mostly I felt bad about myself for not achieving the goals I’d set out for the week. I might or might not have been the only person who felt that way, but it’s interesting to note, don’t you think? dont-worry-about-goals

Now, I know I could be feeling this way because I’m still coming off a manic phase and it’s hard for me to focus on any one thing. At Goodreads I’m reading five books at a time still, one of which is a book I’m reviewing for Netgalley. If you haven’t checked out Netgalley, you really should. And then there is Optimism, and the six month’s study I voluntarily upped for. Don’t forget the origami cranes. 😀 My brain also recently lit on zentangle, because it’s supposed to be so good for stress. I bought books and everything. I’ve only made one so far, but my mind is studying and learning (which I think is the opposite of what it’s supposed to do). How is a brain like that supposed to do anything except make it through the day? LOL strongest

With the above thought in mind, I took myself to the gym yesterday morning at 4:00 a.m. I just did it. My goal was to get in there, to buy a pair of headphones, sit on a cycle, and ride for at least fifteen minutes. My biggest worry about achieving the goal was, of course, the stares I might get. But–surprisingly–people didn’t even look at  me; even when the gentleman behind the counter had a hard time getting the cash register to work and it took what seemed like an eternity. No one stared at me while I fumbled with the outer packaging of the headphones, or while I figured out how exactly the cycle worked. In fact no one seemed quite otherwise occupied. Such a monumental surprise for the fat girl who expected finger points and taunts.

I had planned on going later that day (6-7 was a great time, because people were eating dinner) and every day after that. Then I got sick. Really suddenly, like wham, you had enough fun, no more fun for you. I know my thinking is distorted because I’m sick, so I’ll try not to take that too seriously.

Here’s my point. In between setting goals, life happens. So we need to become as flexible as a Gumby toy. Things can change in an instant. So, what am I saying, that I’m not going to the gym anymore? Heck no! But I couldn’t go today, and my body feels like I got hit by a Mack truck (Say, did you know there’s a r/l thing as a Mack truck? I saw one when I was driving a while back!). I’m saying sometimes it may be two steps forward one step back, but there’s always that one step forward.

Don’t forget to loveyourself intensely during this process. It’s hard. You’ll want to rail against everything. But don’t. You’ll be okay. Hang in there, and trust God. Trust your friends.

Peace out. xxlifer

Putting On That Other Pair Of Shoes

forgivingGentle readers,

I’ve been trying and trying to write this blog, wanting it to be gentle and light, to bring you good vibes so you’ll come back and keep reading. But my mind and heart are heavy with all the colossal blunders I’m making that I keep wanting to slough off onto my illness. A mixed episode of bipolar disorder is nothing to laugh about. It’s like a modern version of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. My loved ones never know who they’re going to be speaking to from one minute to the next.

Until I got into Al-Anon, I used to get so mad at my sister when she wold blame her absurd or borderline abusive drunken behavior on her disease. Even after becoming a regular around the tables, it took me a long time to get that being a drunk is a disease and not a choice. I know, ridiculous right? Who in their right mind would choose the humiliation and shame attached with being an alcoholic? She is responsible for any fallout, and she has to try to amend as much as she truly can, but she has to love herself first and foremost. That’s why it’s called a selfish program.

I wish there was such a thing as a teleporter, so I could teleport myself to a tiny, solitary island far, far away from any living people until I Get Better. Until then, I keep apologizing, then praying and trying again. I’ve started taking my Flexeril (20mg per pill, a muscle relaxant), which I had a WHOLE bunch left over from when I initially hurt my back years ago along with 3x daily dose of Xanax. It makes me sleepy, and a little loopy, which is a weird trip to be on with all the racing thoughts and flighty ideas in my brain. But it makes me a little less prone to blurt out the first thing I’m thinking—I would do anything to not hurt my mom or my sister. Go ahead. Let me have it. Tell me I’m using, that I’ll become a drug addict. I’m already addicted to prescribed Xanax, what’s a little Flexeril thrown in?

I better stop now, because I’m very tired, and I know I’m not making sense. I guess the take-away from this is: be very careful when we go to judge or feel resentful of someone else. We never know when we’re going to be the one struggling with a problem which can easily be judged and resented. But only when we accept ourselves and love ourselves where we are can true change begin to happen.

When I talk to my sister now, and I hear her go into “beat up on Carol” mode, I try to jump in and get real logical with her. She did the best she could at that time with the information that she had. Now she knows better, she can do better.

This is my first ever dysphoric mania episode. I feel so lost at sea. And it’s super hard to take that same advice and apply it to myself. All I keep thinking is “Idiot. Stupid. Mean. Jerk. Way to go, jackass.” It is probably the reason that I still have suicidal ideation and that many with this type of mania attempt suicide.

Argh. I’m blabbing and I’m getting totally incoherent. Please be gentle with yourselves today, no matter where you are on your journeys.

Peace out. xx better

Learning

standing

Reblog: 21 Tips to Keep Your Shit Together When You’re Depressed, by Rosalind Robertson

I was directed to this on the internet by a friend, and felt it was worth reblogging. It’s a wonderful blog post, and I couldn’t have written it better myself. Please read it, it’s well worth the read. SO well written and expressive, and I don’t even need to mention the important content, do I? 😉 Peace out and be well, my friends. 

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A while ago, I penned a fairly angry response to something circulating on the internet – the 21 Habits of Happy People. It pissed me off beyond belief, that there was an inference that if you weren’t Happy, you simply weren’t doing the right things.

I’ve had depression for as long as I can remember. It’s manifested in different ways. I did therapy. I did prozac. I did more therapy. My baseline is melancholic. I’d just made peace with it when I moved, unintentionally, to a place that had markedly less sunshine in the winter. I got seasonal depression. I got that under control. Then I got really, really sick. Turns out it’s a permanent, painful genetic disorder. My last pain-free day was four years ago.

So, this Cult of Happy article just set me off. Just… anger. Rage. Depression is serious – debilitating, often dangerous, and it’s got an enormous stigma. It leaves people to fend for themselves.

It’s bad enough without people ramming Happy Tips at you through facebook. There is no miracle behaviour change that will flip that switch for you. I know, I’ve tried.

A friend of mine suggested that I write something from my point of view because, surprisingly, I manage to give an outwards impression of having my shit together. I was shocked to hear this. And I find this comical, but I see her point. I’m functioning. I’ve adapted. I’m surprisingly okay. I think the medical term is “resilient”.

So, here it is.

My 21 Tips on Keeping Your Shit Together During Depression

1) Know that you’re not alone. Know that we are a silent legion, who, every day face the solipsism and judgement of Happy People Who Think We Just Aren’t Trying. There are people who are depressed, people who have been depressed, and people who just haven’t been hit with it yet.

2) Understand that the Happy People are usually acting out of some genuine (albeit misguided) concern for you, that it’s coming from a good place, even if the advice feels like you’re being blamed for your disease. Telling you these things makes them feel better, even if it makes you feel like shit. (If they insist on keeping it up, see #12.)

3) Enlist the help of a professional. See your doctor. You need to talk about the ugly shit, and there are people paid to listen and help you find your way to the light at the end of the tunnel.

4) Understand that antidepressants will only do so much. They’re useful, they’ll level you out and give you the time you need to figure out your own path to getting well. They can be helpful. There are lots to choose from. They may not be for you, and even if they are, they take some time to kick in. Conversely, they may not be for you. Work with your doctor.

5) Pick up a paintbrush, a pencil, an activity you got joy from in the past and re-explore that. Or, sign up for the thing you always wanted to try. There is a long history and link between depression and creativity. It’s a bright light of this condition, so utilize it to your best advantage.

6) Eat nutritionally sound, regular small meals. If you’re having trouble eating, try to focus on what you’d like to eat. I went through a whole six week episode of tomatoes and cream cheese on a bagel twice a day. Not great, but it was something – helpful context, I’m a recovered anorexic. Conversely, if all you want to do is scarf down crap, try to off-ramp it by downing a V-8 and doing #9 for 15 minutes, and see how you feel. Chucking your blood sugar all over hell’s half acre is going to make you feel worse.

7) While you’re doing #3, get some bloodwork done. If you’re low on iron or vitamin D, or if your hormone levels are doing the Macarena… these can all contribute to zapping your energy or switching your mood to Bleak As Hell.

8) If you’re in bed and the “insomnia hamsters”, as I like to call them, are on the wheel of your head, watch Nightly Business News on PBS. This has the effect of Nyquil. Swap out your coffee for herbal tea. If you just cannot sleep, try the next tip….

9) Learn how to meditate. Start by focusing on your breathing. Not sleep, not thoughts. In through the nose, out through the mouth. Meditation is focusing on being present in your body, not careening around in your brain. It may not be as good as sleep but it will give you some rest and recharge you.

10) Face a window as often as you can – at work, at home. Look out into the world. Watch. Observe. Try to find something you find pretty or interesting to focus on. And, handily remember that one in five of those people out there feel the way you do.

11) Cry. Better out than in. Sometimes it’s not convenient or career-enhancing to cry, so find a private place as best you can and let the tears go. Carry Kleenex and face wipes and extra concealer if you wear makeup. You can always claim allergies.

12) Any “friend” who resolutely believes that your depression is because you’re lazy, because you’re not trying hard enough, who blames you for not bootstrapping out of it- that friend needs to be cut off. Polite (#2) is one thing, but there is a limit. You don’t have to explain, you can just not respond. You feel badly enough, you don’t need their “assistance”.

13) Limit your time with people who drain you. You know who they are. Often you don’t have a choice- but you can put the meter on. And, subsequently, be aware of what you’re asking of those close to you.

14) Everyone has shit they’ve got to deal with. What you have been saddled with is your shit. Recognize, just as you’re not alone, you’re also not unique. The grass may look greener, you may be jealous or envious of others who don’t have to deal with depression, but you likely do not know everything that’s going on with them.

15) Let go or be dragged. This is an old Buddhist saying. It’s a very useful way to frame aspects of depression. Betrayal, anger, fear… letting go is a process – often a painful and difficult process – but it’s ultimately going to show you the path out of this terrible place. Repeating the mantra can help when you’re feeling gripped by these feelings.

16) Wear clothes that make you feel confident. It takes as much time to put on nice clothes as it does to put on sweatpants. You will want to wear the sweatpants. Fight the urge. The whole “look good/feel better” campaign isn’t limited to cancer and chemotherapy. Or women.

17) Avoid fictional drama and tragedy like the plague. No Grey’s Anatomy, no to The Notebook, or anything that won a Pulitzer prize. You’ve got enough going on In Real Life. Comedy only. Or trashy stuff. Old episodes of WonderWoman? I’ve got the box set. Mindless drivel, like the latest CGI blockbuster. Or clever, funny books. David Sedaris. Jenny Lawson. Fiction exists to elicit emotion, and the emotion you need to express most right now is laughter.

18) Simple exercise, if you can. It can be something as simple as taking the stairs up a flight, or walking around the block. It doesn’t have to be elaborate, it doesn’t have to involve climbing a mountain or running a marathon. Baby steps.

19) Depression will lie to you. Depression will try to tell you what others are thinking. That you are unloved and unworthy, that others think little of you or don’t care – or even wish you harm. You are not a psychic. Keep repeating that. “I am not a psychic”. Repeat. The only way to know what another person is thinking is to up and ask them.

20) If you are well and truly losing this battle, reach out to someone. I’ve been the random friendly-but-not-close person who has fielded the occasional outreach. I like to think I’m not judgemental and generally resourceful, and others have thought the same, so they called and asked. You know someone like me. And they will help you.

21) Forgive yourself. I’m writing out all these tips, and I can’t always muster the strength to even stick my nose outside, or walk up the stairs, or eat my vegetables. Today, I got outside for ten minutes. I will try again tomorrow. And I will try again the day after that.

This list will not cure you. This list will not flip on the happy switch. God, I wish it were that easy. The theme here is to not to unknowingly sabotage yourself. All these little things? Like your blood sugar, or watching nonstop episodes of House, or endless Try Harder lectures from your Perpetually Perky sister?

They all make dealing with depression just a tiny bit harder than it needs to be. And it’s hard enough, all on its own.

UPDATE: Wow, guys. Thank you. The feedback has been wonderful – all I wanted to set out to do was something helpful.

For those of you who want to see the original rant, Here it is.. http://www.diycouturier.com/post/41923259437/to-the-person-who-wrote-21-habits-…
And here’s the response to my response (?) – basically, after posting my retort, the happy people came at me with torches all over the interwebs.
http://www.diycouturier.com/post/42465364887/trollin-trollin-trollin#_=_

Also, a few people have mentioned that having a critter is a great thing to keep you on track, that taking care of something and having something rely on you keeps you going. I went back and forth on including that, but for some, it’s just not feasible to have a cat or a dog… but my cat is my Prozac.

And, I wrote this in Canada, where we have universal health care. It breaks my heart that people don’t have access to professional support. You can sometimes find a community health centre, or sometimes your work benefits will have an employee support or assistance plan as part of your insurance. If you’re without benefits and hitting desperation, phone someone. Friend, family – even your local distress centre.

Stay well, my melancholic interweb friends…xoRR

Have Faith, Dear Reader

a-new-beginning Happy New Year! It feels so weird to be saying “Twenty Thirteen” instead of “Two Thousand and Twelve,” but also a lot easier. Although I suppose some people already were saying “Twenty Twelve.” Still, for me it’s something new and amazing.

New years often bring new beginnings, new adaptations, and changes. This blog is going to undergo some radical (as in fun, creative, and revolutionary) changes, and I’m hoping you are able to adapt with me. But I have been unhappy for a while and I couldn’t put my finger on it. I realized I was writing mostly to make you the reader happy. And since I’m codependent – like, to the max – I have to check those sorts of behaviors and head them off at the pass.

The definition of a blog is, first and foremost, an expression of self. To that end, I would like to ask you to suspend all your past notions of what this blog has been about. Just try to clear your mind. Please take on an attitude of curiosity and adaptability.

There will be some changes here. It might take some time to adjust, for both you and me. When I post it will be a post maybe about something I’ve learned at a meeting or from my sponsor, or something that’s happened to me that has caused me to question something in my life, or whatever. Hopefully, what I learn and what I question will also help you. But I can’t be responsible for you. Only you can do that.

Also, Fridays will be for Flash Fiction. That is, every Friday I will post a very short story (1,000 words or less) about anything I want. It’s Flash Fiction Friday! Yay! I hope you will enjoy that as much as I certainly will.

As we have closed out an old year and are embarking on a new year, I have asked myself these six questions, and maybe they will help you as well:

1. What have I done right this past year (in 2012)?

2. What tricky situations did I navigate well?

3. What were my accomplishments—big or small—last year? What worked well for me last year?

4. What attitudes have helped me last year?

5. How did I meet challenges and frustrations in ways that worked?

6. How did I nurture myself?

The answers to these questions may help you see your strengths and give you the courage, motivation, and commitment to reach higher and dig deeper in the upcoming year.

Peace out.

 

Would We Do It All Again, If We Had The Chance?

This is a post for The Christian Writers Blog Chain. This month’s theme is memory.

If any one faculty of our nature may be called more wonderful than the rest, I do think it is memory. There seems something more speakingly incomprehensible in the powers, the failures, the inequalities of memory, than in any other of our intelligences. The memory is sometimes so retentive, so serviceable, so obedient; at others, so bewildered and so weak; and at others again, so tyrannic, so beyond control! We are, to be sure, a miracle every way; but our powers of recollecting and of forgetting do seem peculiarly past finding out.
            — Jane Austen, Mansfield Park

There are two memories I’d like to share with you today, and they both concern my dad. I’ll try to be brief, so you don’t fall asleep. 😉 My dad was a difficult person to live with. He was abusive to me verbally, emotionally, and I’m told physically, though I don’t remember the physical part. I’ve always prescribed to the belief that we do the best we can with the knowledge we have at the time. My dad’s father was also abusive; so that’s what he knew. And he didn’t yet know Jesus Christ, the ultimate Healer and binder of wounds.

On March 5, 1997, I prayed for Jesus to come into my heart and make it His dwelling place. That was remarkable on so many levels, but it’s not even the most remarkable event. Almost exactly six months to the day after I received Christ, my father prayed with me and I gave him his own large print Bible. He was 77 years old, and had Alzheimer’s for four years already, but this was a divinely appointed lucid moment when we prayed. I know I will see my dad in heaven when I die.

The other significant memory is three days before he passed on, which was December 14, 2000. All my family (I have five brothers and one sister) was gathered home from various parts of the states to be with Dad and say their goodbyes. We were keeping him home with hospice care.

Anyway, for some reason (divine appointment?) Dad and I had a rare moment alone. He turned to me, eyes quite lucid, remarkably so, and said, “I hope you don’t hate me for the rest of your life.”

I knew as clear as day he was asking for forgiveness. I didn’t even hesitate.

“No worries, Dad,” I said, “I love you.”

Peace out.

 

It’s August – That Must Mean Step Eight!

Step eight: Made a list of all persons we had harmed and became willing to make amends to them all.

Just a couple things about this step. Some people, in their zeal to “come clean,” list every single person they think they have every harmed, including their children if their feelings got hurt when they were grounded, and things like that.

I am not responsible for other peoples’ unfulfilled desires. Simple as that. Other peoples’ expectations are not my responsibility unless I have helped to create them. 

Also, willingness is key here. Some people find it helpful to divide their list into three parts: the people they are willing to make amends with, the people they might be willing to make amends with, and the people whey never will be willing to make amends with. As they work through the list, they find that some of the “mights” become “willings” and some of the “neverwills” become “maybes.”

Just something to chew on. It doesn’t have to be done perfectly. It just has to get done.

Peace out.

More Will Be Revealed

I’ve heard “more will be revealed” at meetings, and have read it in the Big Book, but it has never been as meaningful until right now.

My need to control can show itself as a need to know exactly what’s going on, all the time. We cannot always know. Sometimes, I need to let things be and trust that clarity will come later, in looking back.

Just like in this painting, I see exactly what I need to see . . . for now. It’s okay. It’s already okay. If it doesn’t make perfect sense now, it’s not supposed to.

More will be revealed. Peace out.

Book Review: Though The Bud Be Bruised

What would you do if you found a note written by your daughter saying she had been sexually molested by a member of your church, a friend of the family? This is the terrible truth and problem that Issy and her parents, Zara and Sam Heymer must face as Christians.

Though The Bud Be Bruised, by Jo Wanmer: 2012, Even Before Publishing, a Division of Wombat Books. ISBN: 978-1-922074-07-2. Amazon link: Though The Bud Be Bruised.

This book is based on a true story, and it is not an easy read. What I mean to say is, it is about a young teen who is sexually abused for several years by a church member/close family friend and it takes place in Australia where apparently they do not have mandatory reporting laws. Issy’s Mom, Zara, struggles so much in her faith, wondering how God could allow such a thing to happen, and she feels a total failure as a mother. Sam, Issy’s father, is helpless himself’, as Issy will not allow him to touch her. Issy herself goes on total self-destruct for a while, and, although this reader determined to remember the promise of God: “Though the bud be bruised, there will be a flower…” at times it was very hard.

Because of the topic I would recommend this book only for adults and mature young adults who perhaps have been through the same thing.

I don’t mean to seem impartial, but I loved, loved, loved this book. I know, I know, tell you how I really think, huh? 😉 It’s just, in spite of the subject matter, in spite of the fact that I cried (a lot) at times . . . I could not put it down. I read the book in two days. You know, I’d want to skip out on being a mom if I was faced with all that had happened to my daughter as well. It’s so human. Wanmer doesn’t present her characters as super-Christians; you know the type? They never get mad at God, never doubt Him, wouldn’t even dare. Zara is breakable, and she breaks, yet God is the One who puts her AND Issy back together. God is the thread that binds the whole book together.

I was very challenged in my faith reading the book. I got mad at the church members with Zara. I didn’t understand. I don’t like change very much, either. 😉 So yes, I had to trust God a lot while I read the book, knowing it was based on true happenings.

I would highly recommend this book. In case it’s not obvious, I mean! 😀

Disclosure of Material: I received this book free from the publisher through theBookCrash.com book review program, which requires an honest, though not necessarily positive, review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s CFR Title 16, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

Happy Friday! Peace out.

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.

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.

Seriously, Sometimes You Gotta Laugh

When people are laughing, they’re generally not killing each other. ~Alan Alda

I am thankful for laughter, except when milk comes out of my nose. ~Woody Allen

Here’s the thing. I’m a perfectionist. I never would have thought of myself that way before yesterday. But when I came home from the Saturday meeting, and Mom wanted to watch a movie on Lifetime with me while I really needed to post to this blog, I almost cried. About a post to a blog! What would I do if I got sick? Post from my sickbed?

Seriously. Sometimes you gotta laugh.

At the meeting yesterday, we talked more about detachment, because two of the women at the meeting know my sister and love her too. They understand all about detachment from the perspective not only of Al-Anoners but as alcoholics. As they shared, these beautiful women, they laughed. They shared memories from their own drinking days, and looking back on it, they laughed at the insanity of it. Everyone else laughed with them.

Finally, through my tears after just sharing my own worries, I laughed too.

Because sometimes you gotta laugh.

Seriously.

Peace out

.

Who is Your Higher Power?

Often, when people get to the 2nd step, Came to believe that a power greater than ourselves could restore us to sanity, they are not quite sure what to do.

Many (including yours truly) have come from a place where they felt so beaten down they didn’t believe anything or anyone could fix it. I was told “Keep coming back.” So I did. I came. That’s all I could do for a while. I came and got my butt in the chair and I listened.

I came and then I came to and then I came to believe. 

It’s a process, and it looks different for everyone because everyone is an individual.

Here’s the problem, though. Sometimes, people in the program will make another person their higher power. Like, say, a sponsor. So what do you suppose happens if that sponsor should happen to get really sick, or die?

The difficulty is people are fallible. They are HUMAN. They make mistakes. Sometimes they fall down. Sometimes they’re late, or they forget to call, or they don’t show up at all. If we rely on another human being — someone with 10 fingers and 10 toes, just like us — we are in for a world of hurt.

I found myself thinking this morning “What in the world would I do if Super Sponsor died?” (I don’t really call her that in my mind, but this is an anonymous blog.) The fact is, I’d be really sad. I’d probably cry for a long time, because I love her a lot. She’s a great person. But I’d have to move on with my life, because she wouldn’t want me to suffer for too long.

My higher power is God. He doesn’t go on vacation. He’s never late, He is always there when I call, He doesn’t have voice mail, is never in a pissy mood, always has time to listen, loves to hear me go on and on about things I have on my mind, and has the best solutions if I just listen.

Who’s your higher power?

What’s Goin’ On…

 

Have you ever just felt like you were going to explode inside? Like you had all these pent up feelings you didn’t know what to do with?  I feel like Mt. Vesuvius ready to blow, and I worry for whomever might be in my path in the next few days.

I really want to just get in my car and drive. I mean for a distance, and for a long time, until I’m somewhere I’ve never been where no one knows me and there aren’t any expectations, no one hanging on me for this or that, or rides here or there… I’m just . . . grrrr. So – EDGY. I feel like I want to throw things and jump up and down like a two-year-old, and I’ve never felt like that in my entire life.

So glad I’m going to a meeting this morning, because even though I can’t “dump” all this at the meeting, I can talk about the edginess, and the newness of these feelings. I can dump the wanting to run away with my sponsor and talk about what to do with that. WHAT DO YOU DO WHEN ALL YOU WANT TO DO IS RUN AWAY??? When everything within you is screaming, “Go away! Very fast! Now, while you still have a chance and before you get sucked into the mire and can’t get out at all!!”

Dear God, I don’t even know where these feelings are coming from. Dear Reader, I don’t expect you to have the answers. This is just my safe place. My go to place, where I can come and lay it out. It WILL work out. I’m scared because these are quite unexpected feelings for me, that’s all. It’s normal and perfectly all right to be scared.

It’s already okay, right? 😉

Peace out.

My God Box

I have a God Box.

In it I put things like…peace of mind, acceptance, courage, certain weird prayers.

Today I finally put my sister in the God box and I closed it.

I generally don’t revisit the God box unless a prayer has been answered, and then I open it to write a thank you to God.

Tomorrow is court date.

We leave at 12:00, have to be there at 1:30 p.m.

Do you have a God Box? What kinds of things do you add to your box? Is it hard for you to leave it closed?

Peace out.

It’s ALREADY Okay.

My prayers have been fervent and many of late.

At the Al-Anon meeting this morning, I asked for a table on Hope, because I thought that’s what I needed to talk about. The thing about the fellowship, I learn so much more from them than they could ever learn from me.

I ended up learning what I need to sustain me during these next difficult days with my sister is faith. I listened to stories around the table about faith, and I wrote things down, but mostly I remembered what God had said to me when I got on my knees and prayed before. “It’s ALREADY okay.”

So I opened my Bible, which has not gotten much attention over the past couple of weeks, I’m sorry to say. I found one of my favorite Scripture passages about faith: “Truly I tell you, if you have faith as small as a mustard seed, you can say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it will move. Nothing will be impossible for you.” Matthew 17:20 NIV

I looked at that picture of mustard seeds on Wikipedia. Taken by themselves, they are almost impossible to see. I think I can muster up the faith of a mustard seed.

It really IS already okay.

Peace out.

 

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