Monday, November 25, 2013

Thanksgiving Worries

To say I'm worried about Thanksgiving is kinda like saying Dallas has traffic:  There's a lot more than you really know until you get stuck in it.
I'm not worried about my mother.  We've managed to sort a way to be civil and even enjoy each other's company to an extent.
I'm not worried about my father.  Things are amicable and familial between us.
I'm worried about my middle sister.  There is a deep, pulsating rage directed at her for even existing, let alone having the audacity to be at a family meal and have the desire to talk with me.  I realize that much of this is directed at the traits she has that I dislike (read: see in myself.)  I realize that some of it is directed at her audacity at trying for something "normal" when we were young and rocking the boat.  Some of it is directed at some of the grudges we bear from long ago.  I think there may even be some sibling rivalry for her getting some of the attention I wanted and never asked for by having ADHD needs.  I try to view her as a human being.  I try to view her as another damaged person just trying to make it.  Neither seems to work.  I counsel myself to be patient and "let go and let god." (I think that one infuriates me even more.)
I think it has to do with seeing my "scapegoat," my symbol of everything wrong in the damn family, as a human, not just a bag of faults. I think I offloaded a lot of blame and shame from myself and my parents to her.  To let go of that scapegoat is scary, because that means letting go of old grudges, old blames, old shames, old worried and just being.
I'm not sure.  I know it needs to be done. It's still a really scary rope to let go of and hope there's an airbag at the bottom.

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Sobs for a Broken Past and Better Tomorrow

I just had one of those knock down, drag out sob fests.  The kind where you don't know why you're crying, or even what the straw that broke the camel's back was, but you're sobbing like the world could never be fixed.  The kind where you can tell it's been building for a while, you break down because you've been too strong for too damn long, and after the storm clears, the world is back on it's axis.
I talked to God/ The 'Verse/ myself for quite a while sitting in that tub.  Out loud like a madwoman, but it helped more to get it out than to letit circle around chasing it's tail in my head.
I talked about money worries.
I talked about grief for the childhood I deserved but never got.
I thought, not talked, about a mother that was rarely "there" enough.
I talked about needing to be good, needing to be perfect, so Mom and Dad wouldn't need their respective escapes.
I talked about how I couldn't remember half my childhood without wondering whether it was the truth or a lie to cover it up.
I talked about flat out not being able to remember much of it, and how maybe that was because of the lies to cover it up.
I talked about being ashamed/ scared to bring friends home. Dad cracked open a beer as soon as he got home and changed.  What if it was a bad emotion night?  What would they think of me for having a drunkard of a father?  Mom's moods moved as quickly as Texas  weather, and were rarely positive enough for her to interact with us. What if it was a bad night? What if they thought less of me for having a depressed nutjob for a mother?
I talked about worrying about fucking up the kids I teach because of my past.
I talked mostly about the lies though, the spoken and unspoken ones. The ones within the nuclear unit, the ones we told the world, the ones we showed the world.  There were enough of them, between the ones I told/ showed other and the ones I told myself, that I have trouble trusting my own memories.  There were some that I've had to keep that I'd really prefer not to, but I keep them anyways, out of the interest of familial peace. There were others we acted.  My first acts as a thespian were at a young age: "Don't tell Dad," "Don't tell Mom," 'we're going over to Gramma and Grampa's, everyone act normal!'
I repeated the serenity prayer, meditating on every word as it exited my mouth.  I found my calm.  I found my peace.

More Step 4

I've been really struggling with this step.  Partially because I'm trying to get a new career off the ground at the same time, but mostly because I'm trying to work around the idea that this is something you Don't Do.  You don't talk about yourself, good or bad, but especially good.
My sponsor recommended I try to view the good things as gifts or lessons from others, to get around that mental block.  It's still difficult.
I was in the classroom today (watching a lesson and getting introduced) and the higher ups kept going on and on about how smart and talented I was and how lucky they were I was there and all these positive things.  I tried to just let it wash over me and accept them.  I mostly succeeded. It was difficult to not interject with self deprecation, but I did it.  I even managed to do it, somewhat, in my head.  That's a rather large leap forward for me, to be able to accept a compliment without self deprecation either aloud or in my head.
I got joy out of helping the students, even the "difficult" class.  It's that joy in work I've been hunting for.  The day flew by.  I smiled most of the day, which is another rarity.
Today I discovered I had more patience than I thought I had.  I discovered that maybe I am as smart as everybody keeps telling me. I was reminded that I have a talent for helping people.

Monday, November 18, 2013

Not All Bad

Reading this, you might think I had some of the worst parents on the face of the planet.  It wasn't all bad.
My parents encouraged us to follow our dreams, but be practical about it.  Aim for the stars, but make sure you have a fall back plan, just in case.We were all heavily encouraged into STEM fields, but weren't denied dreams to write, paint, or whatever called our hearts.
I have distinct happy memories with each parent and both together.  Six Flags with Mom, Norma's Cafe during Saturday errand with Dad, the occasional evening watching movies as a family.
We were well provided for, in terms of physical needs.  Money was tight, but everyone got enough to eat.  Yes, we ate a lot of ramen, ground meat, and cereal, but Mom and Dad made sure we got fruits and veggies and the occasional treat.
Mom and Dad did what they could to support our dreams as kids.  Realistically, we all knew my sister wouldn't get a pony and that none of us would get a car as a sweet 16 gift.  I did get plenty of meteorology and water books, my middle sister got art supplies, my youngest sister got plenty of Hot Wheels.  Little things that didn't cost a lot but meant "I believe in you."
They were there for our achievements. One or both came to every award show or graduation, and they proudly displayed ribbons, trophies, and team photos on a cork board and shelf.
They did what they could to broaden our horizons. We went on family road trips. Mom took us kids storm chasing when I wanted to be a storm chaser (from a relatively safe distance, we never saw any dangerous action). We were in every free or inexpensive program we showed the least interest in. When I was in UIL academic, my father got up before the ass-crack of dawn to drop me off on Saturdays for meets.
We were raised to be kind, courteous, polite, and well- mannered, no matter what our state of mind. While their methods left scars, they worked to instill those values.
We were raised with an open mind, a sense of humor, and the ability to see past a person's exterior. Those values have saved my ass many a time.
The scars I have also instilled drive, humility, and a fierce sense of independence.  That independence from a young age instilled in me a confidence in my ability to do anything.

Saturday, November 16, 2013

What Shall Today Bring?

I've noticed I'm rapidly coming to the point that caused me to abandon ship all the times before.  I'm starting to feel again.  I'm starting to not immediately put my emotions in  lockbox the instant I notice them.  This is a scary place.  All the negative Don'ts are coming out again when I feel them.
"Ladies don't get mad."
"Angry?  Do you want a reason to be angry?"
You're not dying, so you shouldn't be sad."
"What the hell are you so damn happy over?"
"Wipe that shit eating grin off your face or I will."
And so on.
One of the Al- Anon books suggests overriding negative self talk with positive slogans. Another suggestion is taking all of those negative self talks, writing them down, and putting them away physically.
Actually allowing myself to feel things is scary.  I hafta not only feel them, but figure out what is socially acceptable to show.  I obviously can't punch a wall every time I'm angry or break into tears every time I'm sad. Sometimes, the emotion itself is a scary one that I generally try to avoid, because it's a Bad Feeling.  It's one a regular person shouldn't admit to having. I realize most humans experience most, if not all, of these negative emotions.  I'm just afraid of pushing people away with the Bad emotions.
This is not a place I want to be.  This is not a path I want to take.  I need to take it.  I've turned away from this path, at this point, several times before. Dealing with who I actually am and what I actually feel isn't pleasant.
What is this emotion?  I recognize the heart squeezy feeling.  I recognize the anxiety.  I think this is dread. I acknowledge the dread.  Dread is brought on by fear. I recognize the fear and acknowledge it by name: fear of abandonment. I hold the dread and the fear as the tiny little rat babies they are in my hands. I recognize the worry over what comes next.
I can do this. I can be honest with myself and feel the true emotion.  I might even be able to name them. This next step is a giant leap into unknown territory.  Then again, Neil Armstrong only put one foot at a time on the moon as he uttered "That's one small step for [a] man, one giant leap for mankind."  If one movement at a time put humans on the moon, one movement at a time will edge me towards sanity.

Friday, November 15, 2013

Serenity Prayer

Today, I've been thinking a lot about the Serenity Prayer:
God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change; courage to change the things I can; and wisdom to know the difference.
I had issue with this prayer coming into Al- Anon, and in a lot of ways, not in the least that whole "God" business.
Who the hell was this "God?"  What the hell was this so-called "Serenity?"  Why should I "accept" anything?  How the hell do I know what I can and can't change?  God sure as hell couldn't help me with any of that.
I bristled with animosity at prayer, especially scripted prayer.  Prayer did nothing.  I was proof that prayer was nothing but wasted breath. 
Even with a hesitant acceptance of God, prayer was still something I Didn't Do.  Why should I talk to this omniscient, omniphilitic being?  Shouldn't he know what I want and need?  Bah.  Prayer was a waste of breath.
Then someone mentioned prayer as a form of meditation and release. A light bulb went off.  Prayer wasn't for God.  It wasn't for show.  It was for me!  It is a way for me to coalesce my jumbled thoughts.  It is a way to figure out what I really think I want or need.  It is a way for me to admit I "need a lil help here." In the case of the Serenity Prayer, it's a reminder that I can't change everything and that's ok, and I can get a lil help in whether or not I can change it.
Serenity was another elusive thing.  The dictionary definition really did nothing to help me piece it together.  Neither did the thesaurus links.  How could I be calm in accepting something I not only didn't like, but had no power over.  I was supposed to LIKE having no control over something?!  My mind kept going back to "calm and peace."  You can be calm in situations you abhor, even if you fake it.  Maybe accepting didn't mean "like" in this case.    Maybe it just meant accepting it as existing, not accepting it as something you like.  Maybe it meant I'm supposed to use a calm mind to acknowledge that what I don't like does exist, but doesn't hafta anger me.  I can do that.  I may not hafta like it, but I can calmly acknowledge it exists and I can't do a damn thing to make it not exist. I still may not be happy about it, but I'm not spinning my wheels trying to fight reality.
"Courage?"  If it needs to be done, fixed, or changed, that's not courage.  That's doing what needs to be done.  It may be hard sometimes, but it still needs to be done.
"Wisdom to know the difference."  I struggled on this one for a while. Did they mean wisdom or knowledge or both?  I found my lightbulb moment.  Wisdom meant just that: the quality a wise one has.  It meant the ability to sit calm and still, or dig for the answer, heck, even pray for the answer.  It meant the ability to remain calm and unperturbed until you figure out what your part is.  It meant knowing when to "Let Go, and Let God," and when to fight against heaven and earth because it's your battle.  Sometimes, I'll try and do God's part too, just 'cause I still can't fully trust the fucker, and inevitably, something will smack me down with a "that's not yours!"But imperfect is ok.  I'm still learning.

Thursday, November 14, 2013

Emotions, Part 3

Today's been a hard day.  I've been up and down, up and down, with very little forward momentum. I've been feeling stuck, like I'm spinning my wheels, because I'm not sure where to go.  I tried to do some digging on where to go, only to be told to wait at every instance.
Patience is not my strong suit.  I don't wait easily or well. I do it because I must, but "wait" is a bitch of an answer.
In a way, I feel depressed.  Not the usual version of fear and old sad creeping over me.  This one is an honest fear of the future.  I don't recall a time I've ever feared the future.  Feared the present, hated the idea of the future, and ran at all costs to stop an undesirable future, but straight through the gut fear.
I have a lot riding on this test.  I pretty much only get one shot to get it right.  I should do fine with some review, but I fear fucking it up.  I fear losing the chance at an awesome job by not being good enough.  I feel like this is my right path, but I'm not sure of the next right step.  I don't want to fuck this up.  Paralysis by analysis.  At least with the FE, I has seen it recently enough that I felt good about it.  Same goes for the APs and CLEPs.  I haven't touched some of this stuff in over a decade, nearly 15 year.  This test means I need to face my past with biology, that most loathed subject.  It means facing some facts I've held long true about myself and breaking them down.
I need to face that I do well with facts, even rote memorized facts.  I do it well everywhere else.
8th grade biology are the only classes I've failed a marking period for in straight science.  I almost failed that same marking period in history and math (I need to remember what made 8th grade an emotional struggle.)  I failed the basic structures course. Twice.  I despise structures as well.  I hate the things that prove I'm not perfect or that carry reminders of that.
There are memories attached to those early failures.  I would have preferred yelling to the disappointed looks. I would have preferred a beating to the blame and shame I heaped upon myself, far more than m parents gave me.  My parents never saw my college grades.  I never showed them off.  They weren't what I wanted to show them.  Again, I heaped shame upon myself.  I called myself every name in the book. I told myself that I must be stupid for not getting it. I told myself I wasn't worthy of certain things I enjoyed and grounded myself away from them.  You know what the grades were that caused so much havoc?  A 69 and a 68 out of 100.  So fucking close.  I still would have chastised myself for a 70, but nowhere near as badly. That at least was passing.  I shredded my psyche for every C and obliterated myself for a failing grade.  They meant I wasn't perfect, and that couldn't happen.
So I rationalized.  Internalized.  Obviously I wasn't good at biology.  Why wasn't I good at biology?  All the rote memorization without explanation of why things worked the way they did.
A while back, I picked up a genetics text and a biochem text.  I was determined to get to the heart  of why biology worked and fix that preconception by giving myself the whys.  I never got very far. I kept running up against that preconceived "I'm bad at biology" and giving myself excuses not to do it.
So, my next trick is breaking down that wall I created. (Remembering what fucked up my 8th grade year wouldn't be a bad thing either.)

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Memory: The Shield

Like so many of my memories, I'm not sure how old I was.  I believe I was in my early teens. Because we were cramming 3 girls into a 10' x 10' room, there wasn't much room for anything. In that room was an L- shaped double bunkbed, with one lower section being a desk, 3 dressers, a bookcase, and a nightstand. The bunk beds and one of the dressers were separated by a narrow space that led to the nightstand and the closet (we're talking maybe 24", maximum, clearance.)  Just big enough for a child or a thin adult to get through.
We had been told to clean our room.  I had sensed Dad's volatile state and was doing everything in my power to clean it up and get my sisters to help. 5- 10 minutes later, or so it felt, it was too late. He came in, saw that we "hadn't done a damn thing," turned around and left. I heard their bedroom door open and started herding my sisters towards the closet.  The sound of the tie rack on their bedroom door only meant one thing in this context: The Belt.  It had no buckle, only a loop at that end. I knew my father couldn't get through that narrow gap and didn't dare put his weight on the bed. I shoved my sisters against the nightstand and tried to place myself to absorb what blows might make it through the gap. I heard a few cries that let me know I wasn't completely successful. There was a groping hand, reaching for anything to yank one of us out.  I pressed them further back against the nightstand and closet. I don't remember anything after that except tears and a million apologies: "I'm sorry, Dad!  We'll clean it right!  I promise! I'll skip UIL and clean it, please, Dad!"  I don't know whether he gave up or sobered up, but he went away after a bit. I checked my sisters afterwards.  They seemed shaken, but not hurt (well, my middle sister had taken a couple hits.) I don't remember how badly I got hit. I honestly don't.  I remember pain, so I know I took some hits.
I remember shame. Shame at not being able to get it done right and quickly enough.
I remember blame.  Somehow, it was all my fault that the room wasn't clean to begin with. (Utter nonsense.  with all the stuff crammed in that room it would always look cluttered and messy.)
I remember fear. Fear of the belt, fear that I wouldn't protect my sisters, fear that my father would squeeze through that gap and really give it to us for trying to hide, fear of CPS, fear of marks I might hafta try and explain away.
I remember black rage, the evil twin of red rage, that wanted to yank the belt from Dad's hands and use it on him.
Mostly, I remember thinking "I'm not good enough to keep him happy and never will be.  Why can't I be good enough?"
That was the night my sister ran away to the neighbor's house, evoking a CPS call.  I blamed myself for that, too.  I caught her trying to get out the back door and made her to go back to bed. She did it later that night. If I had just stayed up and made sure she stayed in bed, that wouldn't have happened.
I think, to an extent, I still see that night and it's following drama and my fault, something I caused, something I could have somehow prevented by being a "good girl."  I know better, logically, I know he would have found some other way to target us or one of us. He was just in that mood.  I did it, though.  I'm the one that pissed him off by not cleaning well enough, quickly enough.  It's all my fault that all that happened.
I remember why I think that. I told Mom the next day that my bruises hurt.  Her response was "well, if you had just cleaned your room like you were asked, you wouldn't have made him mad." Bam.  Confirmation that I was the cause of the problem by not being a "good girl."

Step 4, Part 3

I've hit that magical level of exhaustion where things click into place because I don't have the energy to overthink them.  Time to exploit that fact.
More inventory:
My red rage scares me.  I don't mean anger or frustration, I mean flat out, berserker RAGE. I don't have it as often as I once did, but it's still far more common than I wish it was. It's always over something I can't control.  It's always well beyond what the situation calls for. And much of the time I either lash out and hurt someone I love, or turn inwards and feed the storm into myself because I don't want to or believe I can't take it out on the offender (see: getting laid off.)  Neither of these is healthy.  I actually got complimented, once, for how professionally I took being removed from a position.  What he didn't know is that I was being very neutral and clipped in my speech so I didn't get arrested for assault, and it was taking every ounce of strength and determination I had.
I guess being able to hide, or at least mask, unwelcome expressions can be a good thing in the working world.  Being labelled sensitive or  explosive can haunt you.  I do need to remember to deal with those emotions, though, and nt keep them sealed off forever.
I'm still not sure how much of my anxiety (GAD) is situation based, past based, and asthma based.  I have a difficult time distinguishing between them, because so often it's one feeding another feeding the other, like an anxiety centipede.  I do know it has a firmer grip on my life than I'd like it to, and that I need to remember my emergency inhaler's existence more often.
I expect chaos.  I may not thrive in it, but I expect it.  When will the other shoe drop?  When will things go to hell, because things always go to hell?  What drama will unfold?  I ask my God to remove me from the hurricane I live in, and in the same breath wonder how I'd survive in calm normalcy.  Even something that should be minimal chaos, like talking to friends, or asking for another project at work, has me making contingency plans along the way for when it will all go to hell.
I make contingency plans.  Hell, some of my contingency plans have contingency plans. I realize that planning ahead and having certain contingency plans aren't necessarily a bad thing, that it's actually quite a good trait, in moderation. I don't do it in moderation.  I have contingency plans for the most inane things, like if I run out of gas on a stretch of road when I have a full tank, or if the dog dies suddenly.  There are times I haven't even realized I had a shit plan until shit happened.  There are other places I need a contingency plan and I refuse to even touch the topic (see: talking to my mother on a bad day and dealing with my middle sister.)
I have a strongly mathematical and scientific, but not necessarily rational mind.  I like to think I consider logic above all else, but my heart tends to rule my head.  These two sides of me seem to be constantly at war.  I get a gut instinct and then try to figure out if it could be rational.
I am frugal and often cheap.  Frugal is not spending more than you need, cheap is buying the same $5 item 20 times when I could have bought it once for $20.  My husband is slowly helping me go frugal as opposed to cheap.  I'd say that's largely due to not having enough money to be frugal when I was a kid; we had to settle for cheap. (Did you know there was knock off ramen?  I didn't know name brand ramen existed until college.)
I am tiny built, and fit into extremely small spaces well.  I learned how as a method to hide from pain.  I still find myself curling into a smaller shape or whatever crevice I can find when I'm in pain or uncomfortable.  It's a defense, but that defense doesn't work against emotional pain.
I can, and do, sacrifice myself for others, far more than I should.  It was an unspoken rule growing up: take care of the small people (those younger, smaller, or more delicate than you) first, be that giving them your dinner, comforting them when you're in your own hell, or protecting them  (Hey, look, a memory.)  I guess it can be a god thing, in moderation, to help those in need, but my needs should (often don't, but should) come first.
Aside from basic survival needs, I put myself last. If you look hungrier than me, I'll even push my hunger aside.  That hurts to admit.  I thought I did a pretty good job taking care of myself, but looking at it, I guess I should probably do more for me.  It's funny.  People tell me to relax, take time for myself, do things I want to do for myself.  I don't know how to do any of that, really.  I know how to do what needs to be done, but when it comes to my wants, those tend to get shoved aside.  The only relaxation I know is a bath with a book and one I hate to admit, even to myself (booze.) As I refuse to become my father, I refuse to comfort myself with alcohol.  I try meditation, and get caught up in trying to be "perfect" in it. I can't thoroughly relax while getting a pedicure because sudden movements tweak me out.  My journals are my outlet, and I tend to censor those, to an extent.
I have dysthymia.  It's a form of depression where my high points of elation don't really reach much higher than your blah days and my dark days are like falling away from the sun with an anchor strapped to your back.  People have actually said "Just TRY to be happy!"  I give them a Wednesday Addams smile and send them on their way. When I eat right, I get a glimpse and a taste of nondysthymic emotions.  They scare me.  To actually be able to be consistently happy feels like euphoria, which scares the hell out of me because it feels like a loss of self control.  I think that's why I self sabotage my efforts to eat right with "treats."  The euphoria of normal happy scares the pants off of me.
I occasionally get the urge to run (I ran so far awayay) like my mother used to do.  I've never acted on them.  I know that my problems can outrun me and will be waiting on me when I get home.  Even if running would help (I don't see how,) I refuse to do it for fear of turning into my mother.  I don't even run to exercise, for fear I might like it and then start running away, like Mom.  (Well, that and the real possibility of a severe asthma attack.)
When I was younger, the only reason I didn't cut was fear of discovery.  I had dreams of carving symbols and words into myself and making them scars.  I'm glad I didn't.
On my worst days, I am suicidal. It's not really something I can ignore.  My mind will see every day objects and views and invent ways I can off myself.  I don't see suicide as an option, but that doesn't stop my imagination from inventing new way to do it.
I need a safe coping mechanism, a candle against the red and the darkness. Biting it down only works for so long before it festers. I don't know of any way to handle negative emotion besides a whirlwind of emotion that dissipates quickly and leaves destruction in it's wake or biting it back until it festers into tears weeks, months, even years after it was created.
I can't name most of my emotions.  I can tell you the Big 3: Sad, Mad, Glad, and Sad and Mad weren't to be shown when I was little.  I can point out some others now (bemusement, bewilderment, confusion, frustration, fury, irritation, euphoria, calm, happy, elated) but the majority of my emotions fall into the lumpy category of Other.
I will push myself to my snapping point, and beyond, to the point where my head is doing nothing but screaming "I want out, I want out, I want out."  Being able to push myself can be good, within reason.

Monday, November 11, 2013

Working the Book, Step 4, Part2

How do I know when I am ready to move on from the first three Steps to my Step Four inventory?
Is this a trick question?  I thought once you had  made the first 3 Steps, and started applying them to your life, you moved on to Step 4.
I guess, in a way, I've been taking a breather between Thee and Four.  Not intentionally, and I've still made some headway on Four, but it hasn't had that sense of urgency that the first 3 did.  I dunno. I still need to do it, but I now have a way to make peace with myself over those flaws and I'm using it as I go.
I really have no answer for this one.  When it feels right? I innately knew when to move on, but being able to vocalize how I came to that conclusion is another animal entirely.  It also seems like a staircase: you're on step 3, and done with what you needed to do there, time to move on and upward.
This answer feels like a cop out.  I would say, well, maybe that means I'm not ready to move on to Step 4, maybe I still have work on Step 3.  Except I am  tackling Step 4 through step 3, if that makes any sense. I'm using the God of my understanding to help me understand, analyze, and forgive those negative things I'm finding in myself.
This still isn't my right answer to this question.  It's a tautological answer.  It's time to move on because it's time to move on.
I would say it's when God gives you the kick in the ass to move on, but, while closer to the answer, that isn't it either.
I think it's when you NEED to move on, not when you think you're  ready, or when you want to, but when there is some desperate internal need to move on.  If that's the case, I'm not sure I'm done with Steps One through Three yet.  I want to move on, but in the same breath, I'm perfectly comfortable just dumping it all over to God and not touching it.  I haven't found that urgency or NEED yet for Step Four.

Sunday, November 10, 2013

step Four, Part 2

I've been avoiding Step 4, regardless of how much I say I want it.  I thought the God stuff would be the hard part. To find out that discovering myself is the hard part right now kinda sucks.
Figuring out what's me and what's chameleon or defense is difficult. I guess I need to explore those.
I am a people pleaser. It is difficult for me to express something different from the general consensus or even to lead a group to a common decision. I fear getting it "wrong" or causing problems and disagreements.  I'm too used to trying to keep the peace and keeping things happy, even if it means keeping my needs and wants to myself. I guess that is a defense mechanism that can fall.
I have issues with silence. Silence was not to be trusted, because too often it was a prelude to having to comfort or find Mom or Dad's drunken requests and punishments. Silence was/ is scarier than yelling, because at least yelling let you know what was going on. Silence leads to fear of the unknown and fear of what's possible.
I fear eye contact, for the same reason a dog doesn't like eye contact: it comes across as a display of dominance, and I have trouble with dominance. I had too many displays of aggression and fear causes that came hand in hand with eye contact. Eye contact has been construed as defiance and I've gotten severely punished for "looking at [someone] like that."
I work well with children. I don't know if that is innate or because I had to mother my mother and siblings from not even double digits in age. I have seemingly infinite patience with kids, even when they misbehave or irritate me. I have more patience with kids than adults, mostly because adults should know better, and a kid is still learning.
I truly think all my issues come from two main fears and one secondary fear: fear of retribution, fear of abandonment, and fear of imperfection. If I can face those, the other, negative ones will fall.

Saturday, November 9, 2013

Good Day 1

Today was one of those days I've been wanting.  Today was a day I kept my serenity. One small step for others, one giant leap for Jen.
I woke up from the aforementioned dream, and felt like a willow in the storm until I faced the emotions it brought on. Once I remembered I was allowed to feel those emotions, my calm came back and I examined them, allowing them to be without controlling me.  I bent and waved with the storm, but I did not snap.
My husband was a little snippy with me when he woke up because he was in pain. I decided not to take it personally, and lo, I didn't, and it went away.
I made the decision on where we went for dinner (a leap of faith for a people pleaser), and nothing went wrong.
I played a video game, died several times, and decided it wasn't worth getting angry over.
A friend fell asleep on the couch, and I didn't worry over him.
I dealt with my mother.  I was anxious, until I realized that I control my reactions and I can control how contact from her makes me feel.   I turned the ringer off for my text messages, found my calm, reread what she had sent with a clear, unanxious mind, and kept my calm in responding to her. It doesn't bother me now.  This was a major leap. Usually any dealing with my mother leaves me twitchy and anxious for days.  I'm starting to apply the Serenity Prayer in my life and it's been nothing but helpful, nothing but healthy.

As I Lay Dreaming 1

First, a bit of a preface.  There are certain intuitive traits (I hesitate to use the word "psychic," though they could be perceived that way) that run down the female line of my mother's side of the family.  One is the ability to see the present or future in dreams.  I have never had one be literal, but most are so close to literal it's scary.  I do not choose when these occur, nor can I force one to occur. They come to me.
I had such a dream right before I woke up just now.  It wasn't a full nightmare, but I woke up crying in my sleep.  I dreamt my Sponsor had died, and I was going to the funeral.  I could easily point out to you on  map where the funeral service was help, but it wasn't as it is now.  Another church(?) had taken over that spot.  I dreamt they spoke of her childhood, but there was a movie in my head.  I think it mixed up her childhood and her college years, just based on an address that they spoke of.  It showed her wandering about a forest in brown cords, a green shirt, and wild curly hair, clutching 2 action figures and a dinosaur(?)  She sat down to play beside a puddle that, from an overhead view, was easily discernible as a dinosaur footprint.  The voiceover gave what I thought then was an intersection but I now think was a street name of some importance when she was in college, thanks to Google.  It described lots similar to what Google maps shows for those streets.  I dreamt I came out of that reverie and someone that was her, but not her, was sitting beside me.  Whoever it was looked closely at me and said "She spoke often of you, and proudly, like you were another of her kids."  Before I could ask anything, I woke up.
I woke up convinced for a second that she had died, that I'd hafta find another Sponsor.  I know she didn't, but those dreams definitely stick with you for a few days.
I think it also provoked a realization that, while I CAN go it alone, I'd rather someone else with a torch lead the way.  While I'd sorely miss her if she vanished for some reason, I think I could handle finding another Sponsor, as scary and depressing as that sounds.
I think it may also have be a warning, for my own journey. There will be times where she'll only be able to go up to the mouth of the cave, and I'll hafta be the one to spelunk inside.  She might be cheering me on the whole way, and encouraging me, but I'll hafta face some things that go bump in the night on my own.

Friday, November 8, 2013

Reward and Punishment

At our last meeting, my Sponsor said something to the effect of "you've never been rewarded, only not punished." I've thought and thought and THOUGHT to find an example to prove her wrong.  There had to be some time my parents rewarded me for good behavior.
I can't think of one.  Good grades were so commonplace they weren't praised. A clean room just meant I wasn't to be punished.  Babysitting was routine. Chores earned allowance in the same way a job earns wages.  Rewards just didn't happen.  Matter of fact, when I would be rewarded for something by a relative,  I was often embarrassed by it, of all things.  I guess because I viewed rewards as special treatment and special treatment was Bad, because special treatment meant you weren't perfect enough not to need it.  A perfect person wouldn't need to be rewarded, it would be superfluous, because it would be constant reward.
I'm still scratching my head, trying to find a time I was rewarded, even with a simple "good job!"  I think I heard that a few times cooking with dad.  A true reward? I don't know that I was even allowed to go out to eat with the team after a soccer win.  For all I know, we couldn't afford that, though.
I'm struggling to come up with a way to reward myself for positive behavior and progress.  The word really isn't in my vocabulary, in regards to myself.  I use stickers for the little girl I tutor, and praise.  I use praise and hugs for my niece.
Part of the struggle with rewards is thinking of one I would consider a reward that isn't already used for something else.  I already play a video game on a daily basis.  I cook good food on a daily basis, and have severe food issues.  I'm unemployed, so many are flat offlimits. Maybe giving myself a manicure or pedicure or allowing myself to watch trash tv or a favorite show.
Another part of it, possibly a bigger part of it, is convincing myself that what I do is worthy of reward and praise.  Many times, I'm bewildered by praise, so I deflect it towards someone or something else.  I'm bewildered because most of what others praise me for was what needed to be done or what I was asked to do.  It just is.  I feel like I can't accept reward for something that I'm supposed to do, even if I do a stellar job.  It's needy, childish, and something you Don't Do.  A good person doesn't need a reward, the good job was it's own reward, or something like that.  Being rewarded is a foreign concept, almost as foreign as the ocean to someone that's never been off the Rockies: I know it exists, I've seen pictures and maps, but can't grasp the concept of seemingly endless water. 
I don't know that anything I do is worthy of praise and reward.  I've had people praise or reward me for things I couldn't understand.  My Sponsor has praised me for making such progress in healing myself via Al- Anon, for making it so far  as I have in my life. It needed to be done, so I'm doing it.  I needed to get out and get a better life than I had, so I did.  I still don't understand how that merits praise.  I have the faintest glimmer of why it does, but it's like a candle 5 million miles away. I've been rewarded with a bonus for what  I considered to be doing my job, and not doing it particularly spectacularly, in my eyes, much as I tried.  It was for a "job well done," so apparently they liked it...  How is doing what needs to happen worthy of praise?  How is something incomplete still worthy of reward?
It's just... foreign.  I understand the raw concept.  An animal learns best with praise and rewards.  I can apply it to others.  But when I try to apply it to me, I can't see what it is I do that's special enough for a reward.  If I saw someone else doing what I'm doing, I'd praise and congratulate them to the ends of the earth.  But, in my head, I didn't "earn" that reward for the exact same behavior.
Another part of it is that perfectionist/ procastinist drive.  I'm supposed to be perfect, and perfect people don't need rewards to learn.  I realize I'm not perfect, nor am I expected to be. I can acknowledge that  rewards would help in the process.
I guess the temporary answer on whether or not something deserves a reward is whether I'd praise or reward someone else for the same thing, until I can see the reward triggering actions myself.

Mom in the Psych Ward

I'm not sure I remember much of this one.  It's in a really fuzzy part of my memories of high school.  It comes after my near suicide attempt and just after my mother's near suicide attempt on the bridge.
My mother was given the option to go into the psych ward at a hospital or be put there.  I believe she chose to go  on her own so we wouldn't hafta see her cuffed.  We did not go with her to the intake, only Dad did.  We, as a family unit, visited her a few times, not very often.  Whether that was because of hospital rules or because of schedule conflicts I don't know.  I remember she seemed at her happiest sad while she was there.  She didn't want to be there, and felt deprived, but I could tell it was helping her.  To my knowledge, that's the only therapy my mother ever has done, is that 6 week stint at Parkland.  One of my strongest memories of that time is her saying "they won't even let me have a scrunchy, how am I supposed to kill myself with a scrunchy?!" and my thought of "I'm sure you'd find a way."
I was embarrassed of my mother being in the psych ward.  I think, to this day, I've only told a handful of people about it, including my high school best friends.  I think I was/ am more embarrassed of her being in the psych ward that I was of her suicide near attempt.  I think part of it is because, with the suicide near attempt, I was able to cast myself as my mother's savior, I did it, I was the hero, even if I'm now no longer certain that's true.  If she had abandoned us in suicide, it seemed more "honorable" in my head for her to leave us in death than to just leave us.  I was also embarrassed of her being there because of the stigma attached to mental care facilities.  I know better, now, but back then, ti was flat out embarrassing, way more than the suicide near attempt.
I was also mad at her.  How dare she abandon us, yet again?  Intellectually, I knew better, that she had no real choice.  Then again, my mother CHOSE to go to the psych ward rather than come home.  What had we (I) done so wrong that she wanted to kill herself and spend all that time in the hospital?  Didn't she know we needed her?  Dad worked, picked me up from school (that was a quiet car ride, usually Mom and Dad carpooled), came home, and started drinking.  I think dinner during that time, more often than not, was fend for yourself.  I pretty much went to school, came home, tried to get everyone something to eat, and babysat until bedtime, even though Dad was right there, most of the time.  Or maybe he wasn't, I know he went out with his best friend to bars a lot around that time.
I blame Dad, too.  One of the times we needed someone the most, there was no one.  He was there, but we all knew better than to bug him about Mom when he drank.  I was furious at him.  We needed a father, not just a source of income.  I was doing everything around the house. Do you have any fucking idea how rough it is to step up as both parents at 16 when you don't even fully understand why?
Why do I have abandonment issues?  Because both parents continually abandoned me. Dad was always either at work or drinking, unless it was a holiday, in which case he was a happy drinker.  When Dad drank, he retreated into his head, became a statue in the chair, unless he needed to yell at someone to shut up. Mom just flat out ran away for a period of time when things got hard.  Usually only a couple hours, but a couple hours of not knowing where your Mom is when you're a kid is fucking scary, especially when Dad is freaking out and pressuring you to remember "anything she might have said about where she was going."  Hell, we usually didn't realize she was gone until we heard the sound of keys and the front door slam.  There were times I wished she would stay gone, then immediately chastise myself.  Every Saturday, she would either drop us off somewhere or I'd watch my sisters while she went and played bingo.  I realize she needed a break. It still hurt to watch Mom drive off, usually  because she would have a rare smile on her face as she left.  What caused that smile?  Not us.  Not me.  Matter of fact, it the idea of the absence of us.
I felt worthless, while she was in the psych ward, like somehow we kids should have been enough to keep her happy and home, but we never were.  Of course, because I was the eldest and should have somehow known, it was my fault we weren't good enough kids to keep her happy as our mom.  Your kids are supposed to be a reason to live, not a reason to run away or a reason to die.

Working the Book, Step 4, Part 1

What has kept me from working Step Four?
Fear. It has many different shapes and forms, but it is fear.
Fear of the unknown. I'm not sure what seeing it all listed out would do to me.  I may find pieces of myself that I deeply dislike.  I may find pieces in the inventory that I believe are "too good" and subconsciously want to thwart myself, because if I'm "good," people can't pin things on me.  Fear that knowing myself would remove my ability to chameleon change and I'd lose one of my handiest/ easiest/ worst coping mechanisms.  (Intellectually, I know that would not be a bad thing.)
Fear of harming others.  Not myself.  Others.  Fear that knowing myself and starting to act true to myself would hurt those I love and possibly drive them away.  Intellectually, I know that if someone would run away because I started trying to get better, they aren't someone to have.  The part of me that fears being abandoned goes "NOOOOO!!! Get back here, you can't leave me all alone!"  Fear that facing the music might somehow harm my mother and cause her to go into self destruct mode.  As ridiculous as that sounds, I blame/ blamed myself for some of herself destructive behavior.  Fear that my true self is nowhere near as kind/ generous/ helping as this persona I've put on.  While I know it's actually quite the opposite, that once you remove the cynicism, sardonicism, and expectation for things to fail  (hey, those are all related!), my personality will only get better,  there's still that little nagging voice warning me I'll turn into the martyr.
Fear of myself.  I've been this version of me for so long, what if I don't like what I turn into? My brain calls that preposterous, that this change can only be positive and that if I don't like it, I can always change it again.
Fear of doing it imperfectly.  I can't exactly go at this with surgical shears.  I'm kind of ripping and scrabbling and tearing at it, resulting in imperfect edges and bad seams.  While I know humans are flawed creatures at heart, I can't be, I hafta be perfect, right? Wrong. It's like I'm this quilt, with all these rips, tears, bubbling seams and flat out missing pieces.  While I can fix most of this, there will always be missing pieces and sewing errors.  The thing of it is, an imperfect quilt has more personality, hence the love of the crazy quilt and T-shirt quilt.  I'm allowed to be flawed.  I'm allowed to be imperfect.  I'm allowed to be the REAL me, without the layers of airbrushing and learned behavior.
Fear of fucking it up, which I guess goes hand in hand with the fear of doing it imperfectly.
How is Step Four helping me to accept myself?
Interesting word, "Accept."  Part of me wants to rebel and fight back with "whaddaya mean?  I've always accepted myself.  I'm here, aren't I?"  I don't think that "accept" was right, though. That one implies complacency and a certain "well, it's here, might as well do something with it."  I think the correct "Accept" in this context is the acceptance of the path to self love.
It's funny.  All these years, I've thought I had enough self love for 3 people, and enough ego for 4.  Looking back, I realize it was a pretty horrible cover stretched way too thin.  That self love was what I was "supposed to have," so I manufactured a version and dropped it in. It was cobbled together out of the wrong bits and pieces, so it never quite fit, but I'll be damned if I didn't keep trying to do it. It ws kinda like a round peg in a square hole.  It'd fit, with enough force, but it never really worked right.  That ego was a self defense ward.  If I piled it on thick enough, you couldn't see my pain and weakness.
I'm starting to see that the real version of me, the part that's been hiding (or chained up, not sure which) isn't quite so "bad"as I thought she was.  Weak?  It takes strength to show the truth.  Imperfect?  Think of Crazy quilts. Smiles too damn much?  Might be a side effect sign of a happy soul, not a cover against a dark world.
I'm starting to be able to shuck some of the layers of armor in favor of the goodness I've found within myself.
What benefits do I gain by completing a Step Four inventory?
I can find those holes and puckers and bubbling seams and replace them with fresh parts.  Well, not quite  "Fresh."  More like old pieces that fit better.  I can find those parts of me that no longer work and find old pieces of me that work better.  It's all in there.  It's just a matter of cleaning house.

Thursday, November 7, 2013

Working the Steps, step 4, Part 1

I guess before I start the workbook questions, I should start the inventory list.  For those unaware this is step 4:
Made a searching and fearless inventory of ourselves.
An inventory is a  complete list of what is in stock.  I take this to mean I should examine what is good about myself and what defects/ flaws/ bad stock I have taken over the years.  Honestly, the hard part will be coming up with the good stuff.  I have a laundry list a mile long on what's wrong with me, but to think of the positives... it's something you Don't Do.  You don't self promote, you don't self aggrandize. Ego is not in humility or caring for others.  I think, in an effort to keep myself honest, and help my hurting self esteem, I'll force myself to alternate, good and bad.
1) I can be kind.
2)... when I'm not using someone as a sharpening stone for my tongue in an effort to keep or drive them away.
3) I can be generous.
4) That generosity can, and often does, have strings attached, even unspoken strings.  I tend to get peeved when someone does not read my mind and do what I mentally demand of them for them generosity.
5) I can be generous without strings, if I feel the person "worthy."
6) I have a nasty tendency of taking things personally, even when they aren't aimed at me.  I think this has to do with the imperfect attempt to be perfect and blame: something's not right, and I had to have somehow caused it, ergo, something is wrong with me.
7) I am accepting of every person as themselves, no fakery or flattery necessary.
8) long as you don't want to get beyond my walls.  If you want to get beyond the moat, you hafta learn to swim in acid.  I think this ties to the fear of abandonment: if I don't let you close, it doesn't hurt when you leave me... wow, note the "when," not if.  That goes deeper than I thought.
9) I have many creative talents.
10) Using the talents for both happiness and pain still eludes me.  I cannot think of a single painting I have done that was done in happiness  I can do neutral subject matter  (I have evidence in my sewing and ceramics.)  I can use them for gifts to others.  A happy use of it for myself is foreign.  It's possible that my art is an outlet for emotions, and I don't recognize lasting happiness nearly as often.
11) I am very empathic, to the point of causing myself pain because I don't know when to shut off that faucet. I think my inability to shut off that faucet comes from fear: what if shutting off that faucet causes them more pain, so then their pain is my fault?
12) I can be friendly, in much the same way as a dog that was abused can be.  I'll laugh and play until the instant you hit a trigger, then I shut down, almost instantly, or react in an unhealthy manner.
13) I'm reactive, not always proactive. As a kid, it was hard to be proactive when there was never a set schedule and you didn't know when things would go to hell. 
[To be continued]

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Al- Anon Meeting 2

Today was another Al- Anon meeting, this one a discussion meeting.  This one was especially beneficial, as it tackled the stuff I've been dancing around all week. Not so much "what is God" as "how do you hear God" and "how do you know you're on the right path."
Some of the things said really struck me.  One person's story could've been pulled from my mouth. (Not their exact words:) 'I don't pray. I'll wish you luck, send good vibes, and hope for you.  I guess that's my form of prayer.'  I've gotten better about true prayer.  I still can't do the come to Jeebus,  holy holy stuff.  That always smacked me more as showing off.  I will; however, let loose "God, help!" or "please let them be ok" or "where to from here?"  I just refuse to "Oh, praise Jeebus, holy of holies, hear my loud prayer, Amen." 
Another person mentioned a change in their prayer style, going from "I want, I need, I demand" to "what is Your will?"     I've noticed myself making that transition, from "Fix this," "Do this," "all I need is this" to "help me do Your will," and "what is the right path," and, admittedly "please do this.  I want this so badly.  I realize it may not be right, but please let it be right."
My sponsor's reading had to do with the free will of other people.  Heh.  That's one of my reasons for letting go of my control of the world.
There were people there on their first meeting.  Hearing them, I was struck by how far I'd come (and how much of me I still heard in them.)
My sponsor gave me some kind advice, and heard one of my more recent fears regarding fucking up my potential hypothetical kids.  She introduced an idea that made perfect sense and was a foreign concept at the same time: treat myself to something positive when I handle something difficult in Al Anon or on here.  The idea made sense, but it had just never occurred to me to give myself a treat for good behavior.  I never got rewards for good behavior as a kid, so it never occurred to give them to myself.  Of course, it never processed that I didn't get rewarded as a kid, just not punished, until she mentioned it.  One of those disconnects between my childhood and a normal childhood.  You can't miss what you never had, so they say.

Step 3, Processing

I went to a park earlier, to walk and try to process the "life" part of step 3.  I could handle the turning over my problems, even mostly handle turning over my will.  Turning over all of my life invoked the 3 year old in me: "nuh-uh, that's MINE."
So I walk.  And thought, and (surreptitiously) watched kids play.  I picked up pecans, and passed them from hand to hand.  With each pecan that fell, or that I tossed away, another obstacle fell.  I'd like to say I know what thought process it was that unlocked being able to hand over my life.  I don't remember it.  It happened all of 45 minutes ago, if that, and I don't remember it.  I just know that by the time I only had one pecan left and had made 3 circuits around the park, I had not only figured it out, but done it. I found serenity, even if only temporarily.  The last half circuit was bizarre (I may have been going into a hypoglycemic reaction), but euphoric.  No.  Not euphoric.  Not worrying.  Happy.  Existing without anxiety or worry.
Even hours later, I've maintained that calm happiness and lack of anxiety.  It seems surreal that I can do this, but somehow, I did it and am doing it.  If I think on it too much, the anxiety starts to return, I think because I start trying to yank control back from God by worrying.  So,  I try to find my center whenever I catch myself doing that.
Last question of Step 3 in the workbook:
How did forcing my will on others make the situation worse?
If I was successful in forcing my will, the other person felt displaced, or worse, disrespected.  It hurt friendships and family bonds that were probably already in trouble from previous attempts to force my will.  It also tended to make the other person feel angry and took away their free will.  I may not like the decisions people make, but they should be free to make their own decisions. If they ask, then I can help.  Forcing my will on them just makes tempers shorter, situations more volatile, and things go from bad to worse.
^I think that's the realization I came to as part of my walk this afternoon.  It was a realization in terms of "do unto others as you'd have them do unto you," instead of my more frequent "do unto others lest they do unto you."  You hafta let folks live their lives.  To interfere not only would muck things up worse and possibly ruin a relationship, but you would be trying to remove their free will, which is never cool.

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Working the Book, Step 3, Part 6

When have I seen a Higher Power working in the Lives of those around me?
I have seen those around me who should be just as miserable as me, if not more, living happy, grateful lives because of their God.
I have seen pure miracles that science couldn't explain.  My grandmother lived for years after her projected death date when she had cancer, although whether that was from spite, hope, or God, I'll never know.  My middle sister found God (the God I don't care for) in jail, and seemingly can control herself (albeit not well) without meds now. I have seen my mother step back from the brink of the bridge.
I have seen minor miracles that some might call luck or coincidence, that timed suspiciously well with asking for help.
As much as I hate to admit it, the happiest, sanest people I know are the ones most devout in their devotions, be it God, the goodness of man, or love.  They are also the ones that seem '"luckiest."

How do I use Step Three in my daily life?
I have to.  If I don't, I worry at things and work myself into a giant ball of stress.  Each day, each instant of stress, worry, or pain, I have to ask God "take this away.  This is yours."  There are problems where God says "I need to work through you to solve this."  I can live with that, so long as I know I'm not shouldering the burden alone.  There are days where it seems like God doesn't hear me, or won't hear me, where it seems I'll worry myself into a giant ball of stress.  Those are the days where I know there is something inside, compounding what's outside, and that I need to attack what's inside and hand that to God before I can hand him what's outside.  Some days, I need to hand him my whole damn life and say "Help, I can't."  Then he sorts through the madness and gives me back what I can handle.  Some days, I hand him tears.  Some days, I hand him smiles.  Most days, he gets a confused basket of yarn monsters, and I get back a couple balls of yarn to work with.

What have I experienced when I have turned my will and life over to the  care of a Higher Power?
I swear I already answered this...It seems like this question asks the same thing as question 2 in Part 5.  I guess they are different.  One is "will" and "God," the other is "will and life" and "Higher Power."  Still doesn't make sense that they ask it twice.  I guess I'll attack turning over my life in this one.
Turning my life over has been a bitch, but overly simple at the same time.  I think it's been so hard because it seems too easy.  Things can't be easy.  If it's easy, that means I messed up somewhere along the way.  Yet, it is easy, in a way, to go "God, I can't do this, you take it."  It's like the parent I never had, the one that helps me, as opposed to me having to help him.  I think that is part of what makes it so difficult.  I'm not used to having someone in authority say "here, I can help" and mean it.  If I hear that, it's almost always a trick or not meant.  Having some omnipotent being patiently sitting there, waiting to take and help me handle whatever I throw their way is mind boggling.  Throwing bits and pieces has helped and, loathe as I am to admit it, served as a bit of an acid test.  "Can God help me handle this?  Ok, good. Can he help me with this bigger thing? Ok, good."  I keep tossing my life to him and in the same breath saying "Ok, that's enough, give it back."
I recognize what must be love and serenity when I can manage to let him have my life for more than a split second.  I'm slowly getting more of those moments as I can hand more of my life over to God.  I yearn for the day that I can consistently walk in that serenity and love, but even the moment and seconds I'm getting are more than I had.
For someone with major trust issues and that wasn't even sure there was a god as of a month ago, I'd say I'm doing pretty damn good.

Emotions, Part 2

I just went to what was supposed to be an interview with a headhunter at a personnel firm for an engineering job.  They had me fill out the personnel paperwork, which I thought odd, but figured it was SOP.  While she was explaining the paperwork, the woman mistook me for a secretary.  I corrected her and she went on explaining everything.  As I was filling out the paperwork, and was halfway done, the lady came back in and said "Oh, you don't hafta fill that out.  Just come back tomorrow for an interview with your resume."  When I told her that was what I was told today would be, she vanished to talk to somebody and came back and said "just come back tomorrow."
It irritated me that I had wasted the gas to drive to the neighboring town to be told to come back tomorrow.  It angered me that they couldn't keep a schedule that they had set. It frustrated me that I had rearranged my schedule to be told "come back tomorrow."  It made me feel not worth their time and worthless. Instead of calling them on their horseshit (more than I already did), I just said thank you and left.  I'm still fuming.  I know the firm must generally work more with the nonprofessional fields, but you can't treat someone like that and expect them to be happy!  I was treated like drone number 2356896786346756, like I wasn't worth the lint on the bottom of their shoes.  I'm actually kinda angry at myself for keeping my professional cool and just taking it.  I know it's better for my career to do what I did, but I wanted to remind her that I drove 45 fucking minutes for an interview that didn't happen.  It made me feel shame, like it was somehow my fault they couldn't keep a schedule straight.  I felt worthless, like I was someone they couldn't be bothered with.  I felt that enough as a child, I don't need it from someone I just met.  It's really tempting to not go back.  If that's how they treat me now, how will they treat me in the long run?  I know I will go back, though.  I need that potential job.
I hate it when something like that happens.  Especially when I feel trapped into doing what they say, because my options seem limited.  I know I'm not trapped, that I could walk away and not go back tomorrow.  In the same breath, I don't feel I have an option, because this may be one of my few engineering job chances.
Gods, how I wish I hadn't screwed my resume.  I wish people were more understanding.  I wish people were kinder, and there were more smiles and fewer tears.  If wishes were horses, beggars would ride.
I also kinda wonder if maybe this is a hint from God.  Maybe one of those "quit trying to work around me and trust" moments.  I also know better  than to count my chickens before they've hatched. I've had promising interviews fail before.  Sorry, God.  I trust you, but I also know you can only help those who help themselves.
Well, God, the ball's in your court now.  I'm done with what happened earlier.  I'll listen for your small voice in me.  I really don't want to go back tomorrow, though.

Monday, November 4, 2013

Working the Book, Step 3, Part 5

In what ways do I struggle with giving up my will?
I have trouble, deep trouble, not knowing what the future brings.  Not knowing what to expect brings on anxiety, because my past was always so unpredictable.  I need to remind myself that I wasn't controlling what happened anyways, and what I did try to control just screwed things up.
Admitting that my "brilliant"  idea isn't the best step is a blow to the ego, and there are days I feel I only have my ego left.  Then again, ego is where you get when you leave behind God.
I'm getting better, though. If I catch myself, and remind myself, with effort I can let go of what bothers me.  An example actually happened last night.  My husband was getting irritated and angry with a piece of technology that wasn't responding the way it should.  My first urge was to run away from the bad emotions that could hurt me, even though he never has.  My second response was to want to go and do anything I could to make it better. Instead of either, I closed my eyes and asked God to take it, to help him find his calm.
I still want to make things better and fix them on my own, because I keep forgetting that God is there and can fix things in ways that they need to be fixed, not the duct tape job I would do.
What has been my experience when I have turned my will over to the God of my understanding?
When I can accomplish it, I feel serenity, peace, calm, and all those other things I don't feel often enough.  I get this feeling that everything will be ok.  I find that I don't hafta try and fix what is broken, because something infinitely more powerful than myself can do it for me.  Sometimes, God chooses me to do some or all of his work, but it feels better being a channel for the right work than trying to ram through the wrong thing that I think is right.
When I can accomplish it, I find that things go better than I could have dreamed, because God does miracles every day, even just the small ones.  Even when what I wanted doesn't happen, something positive or a lesson comes out of it.  I may not like the lesson, but it does make life easier to just hafta learn it once.

Sunday, November 3, 2013

Working the Book, Step 3, Part 4

Even if I don't believe in a Higher Power the way other people do, how can I apply Step Three in my life?
By consistently reminding myself while I am a part of God, I am not God.  I cannot change others.  I do not have the omnipotent ability of changing people or people's thoughts.
By standing still and listening for that small voice in my subconscious, that part of God that is within me.  If I can hear that part of me that is still undamaged, then I can hear God.
By knowing that it isn't prayer or loud Hallelujahs that get the Great Divine's attention, but that small, private "help!"
God is a part of me, and I am part of the 'verse. By remembering that I am not the center of the Universe, nor am I something to be ignored.  "I am a leaf on the wind, watch how I soar."  God's will is the wind.
By reminding myself every day, every instant, that I am not the one at the helm.  God's the one steering this ship.  If I try to take the helm, I might miss out on something wonderful and gorgeous the Great Divine had planned.
The anxiety of turning it over to the Great Divine, I'll admit, is still there.  At the same time, in turning it over, the anxiety lessens to a manageable chunk.  I keep reminding myself that this God is not the one I held a grudge against.  I keep reminding myself that this Great Divine hasn't, and won't, abandoned me when I need that calm voice the most.  This God will not punish me.  He surrounds me with serenity and calm, even in the storm, and it is my choice on whether I breathe it in.
What role did the support of other Al- Anon members play in helping me find a God of my own understanding?
I mostly took this step before really getting involved in meetings.  My sponsor was the one that really helped me dig through the wreckage of my faith for my candle light that was still burning.  Her questions and shared wisdom/ experiences really helped me nail it down, and separate it from the grudge I held.  Knowing that it really was ok to have a Great Divine thoroughly different from the Christian God I hated so much was a lifeline.  While I'm well aware that my sci-fi/ Buddhist/ Wiccan God is not the one common for most,  I'm ok with that.  My sponsor, with what she shared, and the literature, with the people in there with a nonabramic God, helped me continue to climb my lifeline the way I need to.  My God is the God I need.
Oddly enough, hearing others at meeting speak of, and to, the God I refused was something that also cemented my own belief.  A sense of "well, it sure as hell ain't that! So what is it?" kept washing over me, forcing me to make decisions and choices that I thought I was happy to leave unanswered.  I wanted to be able to say the Serenity prayer and know where it was going.  I wanted all the God slogans to have somewhere to go.
How does practicing Step Three help to alleviate my fears?
I'm still working on "let go and let God."  It's a daily struggle to just hand over something to my Higher Power.  I've tried to handle and control everything on my own for so long that it's a hard habit to break.  I'm getting there, though, piecemeal.  Trust is also an issue, but I figure if I can trust the people in my life that haven't hurt me yet, I can trust a God who won't hurt me.
When I do succeed in handing over the issue to God, I realize that it isn't giving up on whatever or whoever it is.  It isn't saying "fuck it, you handle this."  It is saying "I need some help here."  It is saying "this is beyond what I can control or handle."   It is telling God and myself that this is something more in his court than mine.  Do I like Step 3?  Not particularly.  It still smacks of defeat. I'm still trying to change my thinking that it's not defeat or losing, it's realizing that I was losing until I let God handle it, so now I'm winning.  I think I'd like step 3 a lot more if it meant a guaranteed win or that things would work the way I want them to, but that's not how this works.  Step 3 also means admitting that sometimes I will lose that battle to win a greater war. Step 3 is a trust that something that is not me, something that smacks of authority figure, knows what's going on and knows more than I what needs to happen.  At the same time, it is me, because "I am a leaf on the wind."  No wind, the leaf doesn't go anywhere.

A Treaty with God

Great Divine-
I know you've been reading all this and hearing everything that doesn't make it to the keyboard.  I know I've gone back and forth on wanting your help several times. 
I just don't know you.  I talk big shit about what I think you might be, but the concept of a personal God still eludes me.  I think I can handle that, though.  I don't know that the personal God thing is a hurdle I need to jump.  I'm ok with you as I see you.
I think I can see myself as something like a Jedi, or a piece of you, maybe a conduit for you and the right path your will.
I've held a grudge against a version of You for quite some time.  A grudge is only a grudge or vendetta if you put your energy into hating it.  You hafta water, nurture, and feed that fury and hatred to make a grudge stick.  I think I'm done with that grudge, or at least feeding it.  I'm still not happy about it, and I can't say I'll ever agree with that aspect of You, but I think I can at least put down the sword.  It will be hard not to water that grudge, I've done it for so long.  That face is so common here, and the anger so familiar, it will be a tough cycle to break.  With your help (and a "little help from my friends"), though, I think I can at least stop nurturing that grudge.
There's still more.  I can't say I'll ever be able to worship any version of You.  I acknowledge that You exist.  I acknowledge that You want to help.  I'll work with you, but as a team, none of this "bow down and lick my boot" shit.  I realize it's a rather unequal team, you, the Omnipotent energy, and me, the scarred human, but then again, even Thor had the Avengers.
I guess what I'm saying is that I want a peace treaty and a work visa with You.  You don't hafta come in through the cracks in the boards anymore, the door's open.
I guess I'm saying "I'm good with God."

Working the Book, Step 3, Part 3

What keeps/ kept me from surrendering to the Great Divine?
For a long time, it was that one word and all it's synonyms: "surrender."  That meant I lost, I couldn't handle it, things were not just fine, and, worst of all, it meant biting back my pride and asking something for help.  Surrender means you're conquered like a losing country, subject  to obedience, authority, and obeisance.  I was stronger than that.  I was Rome, dammit!  A superpower all my own, with subjects and allies (and no small number of enemies to conquer.)  What I failed to remember was that even Rome failed when it spread itself too thin.  I failed to remember that Rome, in it's Golden Era, helped more than it demanded.  When it started demanding more than it gave, it failed, rather spectacularly.  I was not Rome in its heyday.  I was Rome in the era of the mad emperors.
Then there was that whole "God" business.  I wasn't going to worship one damned thing, thankyouverymuch.  Acknowledge? Sure.  Work with? Maybe.  Bow and scrape and lick His oh so holy feet? Fuck that noise.
How do I begin to trust a Power greater than myself?
There's that twitchy word again: "trust."  I have trouble even trusting myself.  How do I go about trusting something that could easily be construed as an imaginary friend?
I realized that my definition of God does not hafta be the Abramic, father figure who will beat you if you're bad.  I realized my definition of God didn't even hafta be humanoid. A spirit that moves around and through me and my actions?  A God as large as the 'Verse and as small as that still, quiet "maybe" voice? A god closer to being wind than Dad with the belt?  That's more my speed.
I can trust the energy of the 'Verse.  It has seen everything and knows what my next step should be. I'm reminded of a Star Wars joke when I think of the 'Verse- the Force (or 'Verse) like duct tape: it has a Dark Side, a Light Side, holds the Universe together, and can become a giant, sticky mess if you fuck with it.  I've been ignoring the 'Verse and pretty much got myself duct taped to a wall.  When I do listen to, and trust, the 'Verse, it's like being able to use the duct tape in my favor.
How do I make that leap of faith?  I don't.  I walk across my duct tape bridge, one baby step at a time.  I begin to trust by making duct tape planks, based on things I know to be true.  I'm here for a purpose and I can't fulfill my purpose if I don't fucking listen to the instructions.
I used to have a t-shirt that said "When all else fails, look in the trash for the instructions."  Well, all else has failed.  Time to go hunting for the instructions.

Saturday, November 2, 2013

With Booze Comes Truth

Let me preface this:  I rarely drink.  I drink maybe once every few months, a drink maybe two.  I despise the drunk or even buzzed feeling.  I don't feel in control of myself or my actions, and that is a nasty place to be.  But there comes a moment in the booze where I can face certain truths and parts of my past with greater clarity and truth than I dare when sober.  I feel emotions and can identify them more clearly.  I do not pin this on the alcohol.  I pin this on the almost meditative or contemplative state I hit when I can shut off the forebrain.
There are days I pin everything on my mother.  There are days where all I want to blame is my parents' parents.  Most days, I know better.  I did this to myself.  While I know my parents may have started the ball rolling, I'm the one that let it snowball, although out of ignorance, masochism, or a desire to please, I may never know.  I know that I'M the one that internalized, rationalized, and made right what was wrong.
I'm the one that decided that perfection was the best path from the pain.  I'm the one that took on burdens that were not my own. I'm the one that sees a fuck up where most can only see a major achievement.  I'm the one that can't see myself as this wonderful person everyone else paints.
All I can see is the little kid cowering in the corner.  All I can see is the young human being abused physically, emotionally, and mentally for a mistake any child might make.  I want to be perfect because I'm painfully aware that that's the only way I can earn love and not hurt.  I want to absorb pain so I don't hafta feel pain.  I've actually learned to physically and emotionally absorb pain from others with or without them noticing.  I do it with permission most of the time, but if it's bad enough, I send out  feelers to remove it without their permission or with their express "no."  That gift comes at a great cost: I absorb it.  That pain goes into me, although to what degree is never known.  Physical pain can cause me anywhere from no pain to enough pain I limp.  Emotional pain causes a feedback loop that eventually leads to tears.  Half the time I absorb it, I don't know it until the pain appears. Other times, I do it intentionally.  Better I suffer than someone else.  I'm already fucked up.  If I can save someone else from that pain, I'm willing to sacrifice myself.  I realize that is martyrdom and self defacing, self disrespecting.
All I can see is the little kid trying to shield herself from the blows for sins long past and infractions that didn't deserve the punishment meted out.  I see the little kid that wanted to take the blame for that cat that ruined Fourth of July by breaking the platter and making the meat inedible.  I see the girl that shielded her sisters with her own body for imaginary infractions against a drunken father.  I see the girl trying to clean up the milk while accepting and flinching from blows.  I see the little girl that deserved every punishment, great and small, because I wasn't good enough.  I see the girl that accepted that it was her fault when Mom tried to commit suicide.  I see a scapegoat, and a damn good one.
I see a woman that has done well for herself, but it's not me.  I see a woman who would make a great teacher and mother, but it's not me.  I see a wonderful wife and damn good cook, but it's not me. I see a young woman who has beaten the odds and gotten out of one of the roughest neighborhoods in the country with high honors, but it's not me.  I'm still the little girl trying not to dodge the hits because I know that would only cause more.  I'm still the young lady who caused my Mother's problems.  I'm still a fuck up.
Do you know I still flinch at sudden movements?  I still fight my instinct when I need to enter a room of "bad" emotions.  I still emotionally flinch at loud sounds, yelling and arguments.  I still shudder at the sound of broken glass.  I am still broken.
Let go and let God.  Let the 'Verse have the pain.  Let the All have the well ingrained reactions.  Let God lift you from the wreckage.  Yet I cling on.  This wreckage I know.  That fuselage is knowing I'll be hit for infractions.  Those wings are knowing that if I fuck up enough, Mom commits suicide for real this time.  That windshield is knowing how to take the blame, but not release it. To leave the wreckage for unknown safety? It makes sense to the outsider, not the survivor.  I know the wreckage. Safety is a giant unknown.
These tears are safety.  These spasms of sobs are what I know.  Releasing myself from this bungee of sscapegoating is a royal Bitch.  It's unknown.  The unknown has meant pain.  The unknown will mean pain.
I cannot say I know the future.  I say I read the Tarot to know my subconscious. That's only partially truth.  I read the Tarot so I know what future to expect and brace myself for. I read the Tarot in the hopes of controlling future pain.
Maybe the future won't be so bad with a deity leading the way.  Maybe I can handle the pain of the past in the future with a deity who only says "I love you."  Maybe I can handle the pain of the past with a God that says "I'm here, take my hand."  Maybe I can accept the 'Verse's arms me, protecting me from harm while I strike out my own path.  Maybe I can accept love without fear of retribution or abandonment.
I still want to know why.  Why me?  I know why.  This was/ is one of my lessons this life.  Why me? Why should I learn this one before I was ready?  Maybe I'll never have been ready.  Maybe God pulled a mama bird, chucking me out of the nest before I thought I was ready before because he knew better.  Maybe I've been trying to go this alone when in reality it's been like a child's first steps: mama just behind them, watching them the entire way, ready to comfort them for the inevitable fall.  My mother tells me I took my first few steps, realized what I'd done, and fell over when I realized it.  Maybe that's what this is:  I took the first few steps and fell over, now God/ the 'Verse is willing to pick me back up, hug me, and set me on my feet again, all the while encouraging me.
I think I can do this, even if God has to hold my hands until I get steady.  Not to mention, I have a hell of a sponsor, a woman who can promise it can be done because she's done it.  I just hafta trust them and the program.

Friday, November 1, 2013

Working the Book, Step 3, Part 2

What was my understanding of a Higher Power when I first came to Al- Anon?
 Fuzzy at best.  I had some sort of spiritual belief, but I was good without God, especially the Judeochristian God.
I believed there was some sort of guardian or deity out there. "he/ she/ it/ they, I don't care."  I didn't believe in a personal god, but at the same time I did.  I think I envisioned God in much the same way my parents acted:  helpful in moments of extremes, but usually pretty hands off and inaccessible.  The insistence of God the Father or Goddess the Mother really didn't help.  Why would I want some ethereal parent to do the same damn thing my parents did:  punish me when I was bad, offer me some vague platitude of "yay" when I accomplish something, and ignore me most of the time.  "A loving God is always in your life."  Yeah fucking right.  Nobody is always there for me, and God seemed not to hear my pleas.  Even when he sent me what I most wanted and most feared (A CPS investigator), I chickened out (and coerced my youngest sister to corroborate what I said) and blamed God for not sending a good one.  God the Son, who died to abolish my sins before I did them? Pfeh.  A joke.  No one can remove everything I've done wrong.  That's too big a list and some of them are too big (and too deep) to just be forgiven.  I kept my sins in an ongoing mental list, everything I did wrong, everything I fucked up.  I absorbed other people's sins to be my own, as obviously they weren't doing anything about it.  I was fucked up, just pin another sin on the scapegoat and send it to it's happy death.  God the Spirit was a cop out, in my eyes.  It was just another name for the God I had vetoed, the one that wouldn't hear my pleas or couldn't do anything, hardly a worthy God.
I chucked that God out of my life.  I still vaguely believed in God, just not that one.  More some all encompassing spark of life and energy.  The Universe (or 'Verse, ala Firefly.)  The All, ala Wicca.   Nothing you really prayed to or beseeched for anything, more something that was always there and that worked you to your final destiny.  I believed in destiny, but not  fate or predetermination.  You had a clearing at the end of your path, some final lesson, but how you got there was your own business.  In my darkest or most painful moments, I would get horribly close to prayer, a "God, please, please, God," begging for release from whatever I had done to myself.
How has my understanding of God changed over time?
I still believe in the 'Verse, the All.  I've incorporated bits and pieces from what I read and experience.  "Thou art God," after all. The power in the 'Verse, God, if you will, is like a great furnace.  What I have is like the pilot light for that furnace.  If I blow it out, God appears to vanish.  The instant I relight it, God reappears.  God has never vanished.  He seems to go into nothingness, but there is still gas, waiting for a spark.  God is within you and outside of you.  You are God, I am God, everything with a life is God.  I don't grok God, but I have a fair understanding.  I don't know that it's within human capacity to grok God.  There are just too many facets to that diamond to see them all in one lifetime.  But by being loving, compassionate, and serene, you can feel God and be God.