Taking Care of Ourselves

self care

Who do you think about first thing in the morning or last thing at night before you fall asleep? Who do you feed first in the morning? Remember the airplane instructions about putting the oxygen mask on yourself first before you put it on your child or even the hurt person next to you? There are reasons for those.

When I was a kid coming up in the world, the last thing I thought about was myself. Sure, there were a few times that were carefree, like I remember playing Red light, Green light; Red Rover; Hide-and-Seek; Say-say-oh-playmate; Mother May I; all those games that kids play in their neighborhoods or towns growing up. But underlying it all was that elephant of drunkenness, anger, and violence. Towering over the elephant stood the giraffe of secrecy.

On the outside we had to look the part of perfect normalcy. Very proper, well-cared for, every hair in place, not a bruise showing, no tears no tears, mustn’t let the world think you are anything but absolutely ordinary. No, more than that: extraordinary. After all, my father was an officer of the law. If his children couldn’t be expected to behave in public, whose could? Our outsides, of course, terribly mismatched our insides. We hurt, we ached, we carried bruises (some physical, some emotional) . . . we carried secrets about drunkenness and violence, secrets in the words only our childlike voices could tell.

In Al-Anon and in therapy I’m learning to take care of myself – not better care – but to actually take care of myself for the first time. Dori (my sponsor) helps me to see my limitations and what I can and cannot do, before I actually hit the wall of exhaustion (as I’ve done). There is a whole chapter in the Al-Anon Big Book, How Al-Anon Works: For Families and Friends of Alcoholics called -oddly enough- Taking Care of Ourselves. Hey, is there some plagiarism going on here? How did they know I was going to write this blog?

What’s best about the Al-Anon Big Book, for me, is it’s simple enough that I can understand it when I’m distressed. Because when I’m in a situation and I need it, if the language were too complicated or flowery, I wouldn’t be able to absorb, intelligence not withstanding. Intelligence goes straight out the window when one is panicked and in distress.

There is a strong connection, in many ways, between the techniques taught in the Al-Anon and in the AA Big Book. For instance, I was pleasantly surprised to read under the SETTING PRIORITIES AND LIMITS section of this chapter, the acronym for H.A.L.T., which is usually often discussed in the AA Big Book.

This reminds me of my doctor’s appt yesterday for a re-evaluation of my chronic fatigue syndrome. I’ve been feeling much worse, dragging all the time, and lots of “brain fog”, which is upsetting. Well, the nurse took at least 20 vials of blood and I have to go back in a week to get more blood for a cortisol draw, since that needs to be done in the morning, and to go over the results of the lab tests thus far.

Here’s hoping they’ll have some answers for me. Even the slightest hormone mishap can cause a lot of fatigue, and if that can be corrected, I’m all over it. Taking care of myself is one of my number one priorities right now! 😉

How about you? Are you taking care of yourself?

Thanksgiving Day, Sweet Potatoes And All

gratitude

The first time I started in the Al-Anon program, which is several years ago now, my sponsor instructed me to keep a gratitude list. I was told to write down at least three things each day I was grateful for. At first, since I was in a pretty rocky spot, they were fairly simple things: 1. Have two arms. 2. Have two legs. 3. They work. My sponsor at the time didn’t get in my face about it. She was patient, and pretty soon the lists changed. They grew as I grew in the program and let go of some of my baggage. Lori is no longer in my life for reasons beyond my control, but her memory still lingers now and then. I’m grateful. I left the program when I lost her as a sponsor and did not return until about a year and a half ago and now have an even better sponsor. God is good.

“For each new morning with its light, For rest and shelter of the night, For health and food, for love and friends, For everything Thy goodness sends.”-Ralph Waldo Emerson– That just about says it all, doesn’t it? You know, I read somewhere that even when it’s cloudy the sun is still out. That’s why if you are going to the beach or you are highly sensitive to the sun, you still have to put on SPF in case of a burn.

You have to understand and grasp at the outset that I am an optimist by nature. I will always see the glass half full, even if it’s cyanide. On my darkest days, I have hope for the future. It’s the only thing that keeps my going. I wasn’t born with it; God gave it to me, just like He gave me my faith, and for that I will always be indebted.

My family brings me great joy, and we almost lost one of ours to lymphoma not long ago. Our dear Jimmy, my older brother who taught me all the lyrics to every Beatles song ever written had to have two series of chemo and radiation. He still has to go back every six months for check-ups, because cancer can be persevering. He was over to the house yesterday, and he made me laugh, as usual. His sense of humor and mine are sometimes exactly in sync, and when that happens it’s magical.

Laughter is something else that always belongs here when speaking of gratitude. The other day I borrowed a CD of The Best of Bill Cosby: he had Old Weird Harold, Fat Albert, and all the antics he got up to in Philadelphia. I listened to it in my car on a long ride. I was laughing so hard, that for a minute I worried people might stare at me. Then I didn’t care, and howled anyway.

My mother, 85 this year, continues to amaze me. My only hope is that I will look like her, but mostly that I will have her wisdom and self-assurance when I am her age. She is teaching me that what everyone else thinks of me is none of my business.

Lucy, the early-to-rise schnorkie, has been my first in-the-flesh experience in unconditional love. All I can do is care for her the best I know how. Feed her, play with her, take her out, make sure she has a warm place to sleep. It doesn’t seem enough for all that she gives me.

My friends on FaceBook, too many to mention here, get me through great and difficult times. They know who they are. My knitting group, whom I shall see tomorrow, is fun and funny and wise beyond words. Last but not least, Dori, my Al-Anon sponsor, who listens to my messes and tries to help me make sense of them. She, too, is wise beyond her years, and someone I would like to be when/if I grow up.

It’s a great day, people! Don’t just sit inside all day. What one thing can you do for someone you’re grateful for? (Preferably still alive) It can be as simple as a hug. Hugs are wonderful, touching things.

Peace out.