friends

What Could Be Scarier Than a Great White Shark??

epiphanybatman Happy ninth day of Twelvetide. I wish you health and prosperity this day, and a modicum of sanity as we go and be with various family and friends that we may have a genuine love it or leave it sort of ambivalence toward. Living with ambivalence is not for sissies.

Let’s assume for a bit that you don’t live in or anywhere near Flint, Michigan, and as far as you know it’s safer than it’s ever been (since that great white shark in the 70s) to dip your toe back in the water. I give you three simple words.

NEW YEAR’S RESOLUTIONS

If your heart beats a little quicker than usual at seeing those three words, or you feel your shirt getting damp and wonder to yourself, “Did it just get hot in here?” … I am here to tell you that you are never alone. Don’t get up and check your thermostat. Don’t worry you might have a heart attack if you even allow the thought of those three words to linger in your mind.

You are absolutely fine. After all, they’re just words, right? Still, if you’re like me, the past 365 days of your life flashed through your mind’s eye on New Year’s Eve. Also, if you are hopefully like me, you’ll find some peaks and valleys in the past year along with maybe one terrific thing you did for yourself or someone else (or both). There will be those times we wish we could take back something we might have done or said. But no, Virginia, there are no takesie-backsies, regardless of how much you wish there were. And it’s useless to go back and wish we stuck with our diets, exercised more, quit smoking, read better literature, or whatever else happens to pass through your mind. That time’s gone; say bye-bye and face today with unflinchingly optimistic hearts. I have a few guidelines, as we go through this next year:

Be yourself: I don’t think I can stress this one enough. Always, always be your best self in any situation you find yourself. For me, if I have a bad time at a party or gathering, the largest reason I can trace it back to is that in some way I wasn’t being genuine to myself. When we work too achingly hard at pretending to be other than who we really are, when we strive to always be prettier, smarter, more interesting…than everyone else at the party, it falls flat. After all, we wouldn’t be invited in the first place if we weren’t so beloved by being exactly who we were meant to be. So, whatever happens, take a breath, square your shoulders, and open the door. You are wanted.

Be kind: I didn’t think this up, but it’s a great question to keep asking ourselves this year. That is, “What is the kindest thing I can do/say?”

Be forgiving: Forgive quickly and often, beginning with ourselves. Try not to be too quick to judge, because–well, we know what that feels like. Try, though surely we won’t often always be successful, to give the benefit of the doubt, to those you cherish, as well as yourself.

Be goal-oriented: This is essentially quite different from resolutions. Goals are infinitely good to have, for without them, we despair and languish. If your only goal is to make it through the day unscathed, and when you collapse into bed that night, having counted all fingers and toes and found none missing, then that’s a good day’s work.

Most of all, don’t live back there. You can’t get there from anywhere in the rational world that isn’t met with opaque glasses, never seen quite clearly. And for all the goodness in the world, don’t spend too much time in the future. You might start finding yourself too old for this or that, that it’s inevitably too late. I’m of the opinion it’s never too late. Not for marriage, not for love, for education, etc. It’s not even too late to have children, regardless of age–one can always adopt, or be a stupendous aunt or uncle.

I sincerely hope you have had nothing but happiness this past Christmas, and that Santa Claus was good to you. You deserve it. Moving forward, let’s join hands and step into 2017, with our eyes on trying hard to be better in every way. Here’s to you, plus a cartoon to make you laugh: bear-snowman

 

20 Ways To Get Yourself Out Of That Rut

stuck-in-a-rutAll of us get “stuck in a rut” at some point. What we do to get out is the important thing. Here are some suggestions.They’re not researched, or written in stone, or anything like that. They’re just guidelines, from me to you.

1. Change the way you normally workout.
2. When you drive home after work or school, try a different way.
3. Clean out your desk drawers, or your glove box in the car.
4. Wash your car yourself instead of taking it to the car wash.
5. Change up your food choices when you go grocery shopping.
6. Make a list of things you’d like to get done this week (just the act of making the list is uplifting itself).
7. Rearrange your work area.
8. Sleep on the other side of the bed.
9. Change the status picture on your Facebook page.
10. Make deadlines for things you want to get done (No. 6 part two).
11. Do at least one thing on the list right now.
12. Call a friend or relation whom you haven’t spoken to in a while.
13. Buy a different brand of shampoo.
14. Surf the internet, with the intention of finding new websites to explore.
15. Read a book you might not have even considered picking up in the past.
16. Ask the grocery clerk how his day is going.
17. Try a new bedspread for your bed, maybe something in shocking pink. 😉
18. Write yourself a letter about where you want to be in the next six months.
19. Go to that restaurant you’ve been wanting to try.
20. Change around the furniture in your apartment or house.

 

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!

 

The Fine Art of Letting Go

holding_on_and_letting_go_by_klcarr-d4mh2l9 In my last post I said I was going to write about the worry over my mom and my sister. I also said I was going to write it the next day. Now you know not to trust anything I say. 😉

But seriously, I went to an amazing meeting this morning. And it wasn’t just because it was called the Sunday morning Amazing Grace Al-Anon meeting, either. We read from today’s reading in Hope for Today, and what I heard most of all was about letting go.

Boy, do I need to let go. I’ve been ashamed to talk about this here, but since I talked with my sponsor and with my friend Sherrie, who guest posted here and writes here, at Sherrie Theriault’s Blog, I feel better. My uber sponsor bolstered my spirits by speaking of a few small resentments she had rattling around in her head.

But what was most important was what Sherrie did. First, she made me laugh. Laughter is very important for the soul. 2. She let me know that I have a double standard, one for myself and one for everybody else, and I’m much harder an myself. 3. That resentments sometimes have layers, and if my sister just stopped drinking seven months ago, it’s not surprising I still have resentment left; and 4. That it’s okay, even good to let readers know other seasons of your soul. You need to know that there was a whole season I did not go to meetings. More importantly, you needed to hear from me during that time, that I was still here, what I was doing, how I was doing, so that you too could read and perhaps say, “Oh yes, that’s me.” or “Gosh, I don’t ever want to go there.”

It was great to see my sponsor. We hadn’t seen each other in a while, what with one thing and another, and we just held each other for the longest time. “Look at you!” she said. “Look at you!” said I. We made a time to get together on Wednesday.

Peace out.

Thriving Through The Holidays – Theme for December!

candle This December, I will be participating in Holidailies, a challenge blogs around the world are participating in, to blog something each day of the month. I’m excited about this challenge, and I hope you will be too! I need something to get me back into daily posting.

It doesn’t have to be themed, in fact it can be about anything at all. But I have chosen to make this December all about THRIVING during the holidays, especially as a friend or family  member of an alcoholic.

Here you will find posts about getting into the spirit, finding quick exits, prayer, attending meetings, getting support, asking for help, and a score of other things that will hopefully help you (and I) do much more than survive Christmas and New Year’s this year.

Happy December 1st!

Peace out.

Whole Vs. Hole

Right, I was going to post more pics of Tweetybird. Well, I got sidetracked by preparing to write my novel, Where is Faith?, for Camp NaNoWriMo, starting tomorrow. I promise I’ll post pics tomorrow. Pinky promise. 😉

Today I want to talk about a book I’m currently reading and about how a certain passage resonated within me. It’s a YA novel called Clean by Amy Reed, about a group of teens in a rehab together. They are asked to write essays about themselves, what got them in their situations and so forth.

One of the teens, Eva, writes so beautifully, she breaks my heart. Here is an excerpt: Do you remember? Do you remember being solid? Do you remember life before the hole? Before you were empty and needed to be filled? There was a time when everything was enough. There was a time you didn’t try to get out of your own skin. Remember. 

Wow.

I cried when I read that, because I do remember that time. It was when I was three years old riding my tricycle and when I was five years and my mom gave me a huge birthday party with all my friends over. I can see everything, smell the grass outside, see the trees in our neighborhood, all my friends smiling, I can remember playing red light green light, red rover (memories get mixed up, so I may have been older here).

Then there was the hole. Really it was a void. That’s why I picked that picture. It was a void so huge nothing could fill it. I tried to fill it with food, with fixing people, with trying so hard to be perfect, with trying to please other people, with anticipating every need. . . I even tried to fill it with screwing up in college when the other stuff didn’t work. I tried to fill it up with self harm and suicide attempts and dark, dark thoughts that would never go away.

Then two wonderful things happened. First, I became a born-again believer. That was a very good day. March 5, 1997. I don’t push my beliefs on anyone, but I’m not ashamed of them either. Then, I keep thinking it was longer, but it was only around September of last year, I found Al-Anon.

Now, I have that W- in front of the Hole again. I know and feel what it means to be whole. Not all the time, because sometimes I forget and slip back, but most of the time. And it feels . . . FANTASTIC. 

Peace out.

Asking For Help With H.A.L.T.

I'm Mrs. Lonely

After being in Al-Anon a while,  I learned about the acronym H.A.L.T., which teaches us never to get too hungry, angry, lonely, or tired. 

I’ve been rolling along all right, I guess, with the hungry and tired part . . . you know, eating enough (while not correctly) and sleeping enough. But I’ve been slipping in the anger department lately.

And I’m devastatingly lonely. There, I said it. I don’t have any real/life friends other than my sponsor, and– Oh God, that sounds absolutely pathetic. But it’s really not. Because for the most part I enjoy my own company and have been perfectly fine spending time alonewhich is different by far than being lonely.

The difference has spiked I think because many of my close circle of online friends are experiencing personal stressors of their own, or are extremely busy, or are in general freaking out. sigh It’s a sign of the times, you know? Life is precarious at best and a thin, delicate thread at worst. Striking a balance within that is like trying to draw polka dots on a King Cobra. A bit scary and breathtaking.

So, after I prayed, and cried, and prayed some more, then cried as I drove to the meeting, I did something quite uncharacteristic for me. I asked for help.

I shared that I’d been ignoring the L. part especially of H.A.L.T., and talked about how that was SO not working for me. Then – before my hands could shake too much – I passed around the sheet of paper and asked if, you know, they wanted to be friends and, if that was they case could they write down their number for me so I could call them and ask them out for coffee or something? lol

I DID. That’s exactly how I said it too. There were five women at my table, and I got four numbers.

I’m so proud of myself. I’m going to do it at tomorrow’s meeting too. 🙂

Is it hard for you to ask for help? When was the last time you did, and were the results surprising?

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.

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