“Remember, the two-legged and the four-legged are made by the same creator. We are relatives.” -Cloud Dancing (from Dr. Quinn Medicine Woman)
“No creature is undeserving of love. God reminds us of that.” –Today’s Gift from Hazelden
It had been a long week. For various reasons, I was feeling especially lonely and disconnected. That’s kind of how the holidays have been for me. In and out of gratitude, comparison, joy, depression, back again to thankfulness, reflection, and back to hopelessness. Earlier in the week, I had spent time with my best friend, lost hope in what I thought was a promising romance, and learned of an upcoming publication success. The ups and downs of life. Nothing new. I came home Friday night, wanting to share my disappointments and successes with someone in my house. But there were more pressing issues that the people in my house had to share with me. I listened. I responded. I reacted. I worked: took out the garbage, started the car, brought water to my mom, washed the dishes, unstopped the toilet, swept the kitchen, fed the cat. I was needed. I started to wonder, if I didn’t come home, would anyone really miss me? Perhaps if the dishes started piling up. I don’t know. I wanted to run away. Perhaps starting over in another town would be good.
Okay, with the pity party over, I basically felt unappreciated, and codependently unable to ask for what I needed.
Of course the people who live with you are supposed to know what you need!
So Saturday, I slept. All day. My all day slumber was probably 50% depression, 30% exhaustion, 10% disappointment, and 10% guilt and shame for feeling the depression, exhaustion, and disappointment. Got up…ate…slept some more. I was checking out. Every time I felt a hint of emotional pain, I would turn over and sleep some more. It’s not the most evolved way of dealing with feelings, but it’s all I had yesterday. It was the best I could do. Toward the end of the evening, I emerged for a bit and spent time with my family…who were still quite self-focused. I watched a movie and then made a decision to not do this same thing again today. Sunday, I would get up, get dressed and go to church. Yes. Having somewhere to go will help.
That’s where the funny part comes in…
I woke up early this morning feeling the same sadness and hopelessness that I felt yesterday. I said, forget it. Maybe I need just one more day of slumber. It’s freezing outside anyway. I’m just going to turn over and go back to sleep.
The moment I turned over, there was my cat, Samson, on my bed, looking intently at something by his paw. He kept poking and poking at it. I thought it was a bug. But then, I saw the four legs…then the little tail…
It was a mouse!!
A dead mouse. The cold temperatures in Chicago have led those little mousey guys into our warm home. We have an old house and there are lots of cracks and crevices that those little guys sneak through. And my 10 year old cat, being the great mouser he is, caught that little guy, and brought him to his mama.
Disgusting yes. But two things happened here. Be careful what you wish for. Just a few days earlier, I had felt unappreciated. Here, my cat was showing me that not only did he appreciate me, that he loved me enough to bring me his prey to share.
The other thing that happened here was that I was so freaked out and disgusted by this dead mouse in my bed, that I was fully awake and no longer going to turn over and drown in my sorrows. If I was going to cry it out, I was going to cry it out among others. In church community. So I went to church, then took myself to breakfast. And then on to one of my favorite places…as I write this…I am at the library.
My problems unsolved, still feeling rather lonely, but among the living. Fulfilling my purpose through writing these words.
And it humbles me to think that God used two 4-legged creatures to communicate His message to me today:
You are Loved
Get your butt up and show that Love to others.
And so it is.
“Very often, healing is achieved through the act of expressing pain.” -Rokelle Lerner
Last weekend my best friend dragged me to a wedding. I say that she dragged me because when she first told me that she was coming into town, she wanted to know if I was available to go out for some free food and drinks. Thinking that the free food and drinks plus spending time with my BFF was an offer I could not refuse, I said yes. A few hours after she asked me if I wanted to go out, I get a text from her saying,
And oh by the way, did I mention that we are going to a wedding?
I chuckled. Leave it to my BFF to leave out this important info. Now, I was actually going to have to do my hair and find something nice to wear. No problem. Besides, I hardly ever get to spend time with my best friend. I also like getting myself all prettied up. But there was one thing I could not deny:
I am not a big fan of weddings.
I usually get very sad at weddings. Now if I am working/playing the flute at a wedding, I am okay because I’m focused on my performance and doing a good job. But being a part of the celebration is tough. Why in the world would I experience sad feelings at such a joyous occasion such as a wedding? I will be vulnerable and tell you the reason why. Despite the internal work I have done and the satisfaction I have with being with myself, I still have an ache in my heart; an unfulfilled dream of finding a special guy to share my life with.
There are times that I put this pain on a shelf, only taking it down to talk about it with God, or my closest companions. But weddings have a tendency to force that pain off the shelf.
I went anyway. The wedding was lovely. The bride was beautiful, the couple very much in love. Dinner was delicious. Spending time with my BFF was a blast. I was okay.
Until the third glass of wine.
There is something about alcohol that either makes you way too happy, or sends you in the opposite direction. In my case, and on this evening, it sent me toward the unhappy direction. I could no longer hold in my sadness. I withdrew to a world inside of my head where I was the bride and my special guy stared lovingly into my eyes as we danced the night away. In the midst of all that wedding happiness and chatter, I felt so alone. So I disappeared to a bathroom stall and wept.
I felt so ashamed. Not only was I breaking one of the Ten Commandments by coveting, but I was crying in the midst of a celebration. There, in the bathroom stall, that critical inner voice began to speak:
What the hell is wrong with you? You are so pathetic. This is ridiculous. This is a happy occasion and you have no reason to be sad. You are acting like a loser. You should have stayed home if you were going to be this way. You always have these emotional problems. This is why no one likes to hang out with you. This is why you are alone. Seriously, get over it.
After listening to my inner critic, I got myself together and emerged from the bathroom in a foul mood. I was completely disgusted with myself and what I was feeling. I isolated and sat in a corner. My best friend tried to get me to participate in more of the festivities and I refused. I wanted to leave as soon as possible.
Here is the question: Was my problem that I was just an emotional basket case because I was at a wedding? Or could it have been that my eventual foul mood and isolation resulted from me allowing my inner critic to bring me to shame?
Of course the wine had a lot to do with it. But for those of you who have been with me through this journey, you probably know the answer. I was so ashamed about the pain that was triggered at this wedding, that I did not and would not allow myself to just sit with the pain. It was trying not to feel the pain that caused my suffering. It was judging my pain that made it worse.
“It’s our attraction to being free of pain that causes suffering.” -Charlotte Kasl (from If the Buddha Dated)
I never stopped to think that maybe a single, 37 year old, never married woman may have a right to have sad feelings at a wedding. So what. I wasn’t breaking any laws and I didn’t make a scene; my feelings were my own. Perhaps if I had just let them be, the pain would have eventually passed, and the healing would have began.
Dorothy: I just have to take it one day at a time.
Rose: Of course you do! If you take them two at a time, you’d be constantly changing your underwear. (Quote from an episode of The Golden Girls where Dorothy seeks treatment for a gambling problem)
I would like to consider myself a faithful 12 stepper, but honestly, there are times when I want to throw “one day at a time” out of the window. I hate uncertainty. I’m not sure if there is anyone who really likes it, but there are people that embrace living in the moment, looking at life as an exciting adventure; not knowing what’s going to happen from one moment to the next. But I have to admit…I strongly dislike living that way.
My hatred of uncertainty often leads me to NOT live in the moment. I worry about what’s going to happen in the next hour, day, week, year, 10 years! I know I have learned much of this from my mom. I often joke with her because she is usually planning (or worrying about) what she is having for dinner before she has finished breakfast!
Some people have the gift of planning and preparation and of course there is nothing wrong with this. But I think my disdain for uncertainty goes beyond preparedness. I want to control future pain. Or better yet, I want to control the level, the intensity, or I want to completely avoid possible future pain.
Sounds a little crazy right? Worrying about and wanting to control the outcome of something that may or may not happen? It usually makes me crazy.
As with many of my issues, I have to travel back to my childhood to understand. Uncertainty was my enemy as a child. Not knowing what was going to happen from one day to the next was the norm in my house. There were times that things would be going nice and calm and then out of nowhere we would get a call that my dad had been found drunk and passed out somewhere. My mom and I never knew what was going to happen from one day to the next because of my dad’s drinking. It wasn’t always about dad, but there always seemed to be some kind of drama that would unexpectedly show its ugly head.
Uncertainty of course is a part of life; however, as a child, it is difficult to process. The only thing I knew was that one day, I would get “control” of uncertainty. I would eventually learn how to control the outcome of things that happened in my life.
I had never thought of myself as a controlling person prior to entering recovery from codependency. When I found out that “control” was one of the patterns/characteristics of codependency, I said to myself, “now that’s one problem I don’t have!” But as time went on, I realized my control issues centered more on controlling situations, outcomes, and feelings more than actually controlling others. This desperate need to control what is going to happen…or what could possibly happen…or what I may possibly feel because of what could possibly happen…blocks me from living one day at a time.
I have read on more than one occasion that “control is an illusion.”
Even when we think we have control, we really don’t. The truth is that our Higher Power is in control. The only thing we can really do is trust that all is well and there is a divine purpose for everything.
And I am absolutely certain that letting go of the control illusion is one of the hardest things to do.
“The child within me still cringes at the possibility of emotional abandonment. A word, a tone of voice or gesture-or lack of it-can drive me to act in ways that I think will prevent a friend or lover from leaving me.” -Rokelle Lerner
One of the first topics I explored when I started consistently posting to my blog was abandonment. Specifically, the topic was my intense fear of abandonment. I explored its probable origins and how it plays out in my adult life. In my ACA (Adult Children of Alcoholics) program, there is a statement in the 14 traits of an adult child that states:
We are dependent personalities who are terrified of abandonment and will do anything to hold on to a relationship in order not to experience painful abandonment feelings, which we received from living with sick people who were never there emotionally for us.
This statement has been extremely profound in understanding my adult reactions to abandonment, or even the very thought of possibly being abandoned. Taking a look at this issue and understanding its origins has been essential in maintaining healthy relationships for myself and others that are involved with me.
When I refer to healthy relationships, I’m not just talking about romantic relationships, but family relationships and friendships as well. I’ve recently had my abandonment wound triggered in several friendships and this has been very difficult for me. Without going into specifics, I’ve been struggling with the following:
- letting go versus holding on
- isolation versus connection
- confrontation versus avoidance
- acting versus reacting
It’s a challenge for me to figure out what the best approach is when I feel like I’m being abandoned. I have to be very careful to not “do anything to hold on to a relationship,” while not completely withdrawing as a coping mechanism…I’d rather be the one who abandons rather than the one who gets abandoned!
I’m sure that those who are emotionally stronger are able to deal with things better when they feel they are being abandoned. I’m usually envious of those kinds of people. It’s like it’s no big deal, on to the next friend, on to the next relationship. Next!!
This doesn’t work for me. And I’m accepting of this. I’m accepting of the fact that I am just designed differently than some. I am very sensitive, I have a heart as big as the ocean, and I am extremely compassionate. It’s just the way I am. It is the way God made me. I no longer think of my sensitivity and compassion as a detriment, but as a beautiful part of who I am. As a matter of fact, it is who I AM.
So when there is a possibility that I am being abandoned, I hurt.
And I think the first step is acknowledging the hurt. If I deny the hurt is there, or pretend its not a big deal, then I start making unhealthy choices. I hold on too tight or I shut down.
If I avoid the hurt, my fears of abandonment…not the concept of abandonment itself will rule my life.
As with everything, working through these fears is a matter of progress not perfection. I will get there…one day at a time.
This is an absolutely beautiful poem written by a fellow blogger, Wendy Strohm, inspired by the 12 steps. Enjoy! :)
“I like your Christ, I do not like your Christians. Your Christians are so unlike your Christ.” ― Mahatma Gandhi
This is Holy Week. For many Christians, it is a time of reflection and solemness about the amazing sacrifice that Jesus paid for our sins. I will make it personal, since I know all of my readers are not Christian…I am reflective this week about the amazing sacrifice that Jesus paid for my sins. I respect other religions, but I know in my own life, that because I am not perfect, filled with shame and guilt about so many things, I just need a Savior. That’s just me. I didn’t know that I could have a real relationship with Jesus, or that He even wanted to have a real relationship with me until about two years ago. I didn’t even know what that meant, and it’s still very hard to explain. But the more I get to know who Jesus was, specifically through His word (The Bible), the more I love Him…and I not only Love Him, I just simply like the guy. I really wish more people knew the real person of Jesus…or at least would be willing to try.
I spend a lot of time with many people in 12 step groups who have been religiously abused, confused about their Higher Power, or have been let down by Christianity and religion for one reason or another. It saddens me because many of these people may never open their hearts to Jesus. Many people have this judgmental, overbearing view of God and they want to be free of that. Any mention of Jesus or God is a joke for them. They want to know where in the world was this Jesus when they were going through their challenges? This is understandable. The God they know demands perfection and imposes severe punishment for being bad. But the Truth is that the heart of Jesus is compassionate, loving and pure. Sure, we all strive to do the best that we can, and make good decisions, but we all miss the mark. There are consequences for our actions, but not necessarily punishments. I have learned that God loves me no matter who I am or what I was, or who I will become. Perhaps it’s explained better by Henry Halley:
“Walking with God does not mean that we are without sin. We have sinned in the past, and we still have sin in our nature. It is not by virtue of our sinlessness that we have fellowship, a relationship, with God, but because of Christ’s death for our sin.”
I had this discussion with some fellow 12 steppers last summer at a 12 step conference I attended. Many of my fellow travelers believe in a Higher Power, but confessed their disgust with religion…specifically Christianity. Their personal journeys have put them in contact with Christians that have judged them and condemned them without mercy. I literally “laughed out loud” when one of my fellow travelers told me,
This one Christian was coming down on me so hard for some stuff I did that I finally told the person, “Look, don’t you know that Jesus hung out with hookers??!!”
Of course this person was referring to Jesus’ friendship with Mary Magdalene. Perhaps I wouldn’t have used that choice of words, but I could totally understand what my fellow traveler was saying. The real person of Jesus was compassionate and loving to those who society did not deem worthy of compassion and love.
And that’s just the kind of Christian I want to be.
Halley, Henry H. (2008-09-09). Halley’s Bible Handbook with the New International Version (Kindle Locations 13839-13840). Zondervan. Kindle Edition.
By the way, I almost titled this post, “Jesus Hung Out With Hookers,” but I’m too much of a wimp! <3
Always Do Your Best. Your best is going to change from moment to moment; it will be different when you are healthy as opposed to sick. Under any circumstance, simply do your best, and you will avoid self-judgment, self-abuse and regret. -Miguel Angel Ruiz
I am just recovering from a bad cold and sinus infection. There were lots of things on my mind to write, but I couldn’t manage to make it to the computer to type it up. I really hate being sick. I know, I know, who likes being sick? But for a person that is already super hard on herself and extremely judgmental, when I’m sick, I’m even more hard on myself and judgmental. Lots of negative self-talk going on last week. Lots of emotional inebriation. However, I am grateful that however bad I thought things were last week, they were not as bad as they have been in the past.
I’m celebrating two years in emotional 12-step recovery this month, and its probably fitting that I had this experience of sickness and then reflection about my emotional and spiritual journey. It’s no secret as to the 12 step fellowships that I belong, Codependents Anonymous and Adult Children of Alcoholics. I have no shame about this. These programs have changed my life in so many ways. They have opened my heart up to receive so much love and healing. They have given me so much better perspective for my past and hope for my future. Working these programs has been tricky though. When you are recovering from a substance, you stay away from that substance. But how in the world do you measure emotional recovery? I’m not saying one is easier than the other, but I think that in both cases, you just have to keep showing up…or in recovery language: keep coming back.
There is still so much I don’t understand about my life, but the great thing about being in 12 step recovery is that I know I have a life. That I’m not just some feather floating in the wind. That I belong here and have a purpose here. Whatever that purpose may be.
I may never understand everything fully. But I know there is a Higher Power who Loves me and understands it all.
12 Step recovery has also taught me that it’s okay to have days when you’re sick and can’t do everything. It’s okay to take care of myself. I still need practice on not judging myself and being hard on myself, but 12 step has also taught me “progress not perfection.”
Nothing is perfect, not even recovery. There are lots of rules and guidelines; however, how we heal is ultimately up to us. There are people and trusted counselors and friends that can give us advice along the way, but our emotional recovery is all about us and what we feel is right. We must trust ourselves in this process.
I have been reflective about the concept of Forgiveness…
Shortly after my father passed away, toward the end of 2003, I dated a guy that was verbally abusive. I dated this guy for about 6 months until I finally couldn’t take it anymore. As I looked back on the relationship, I’m not even sure why I was in a relationship with this guy. I wasn’t really attracted to him, he had a superior attitude, very critical, overbearing, and then of course there was the verbal abuse. At the time, it just seemed like the thing to do. Everyone else was getting hooked up or entering into new relationships, and I didn’t want to be the odd woman out. I wanted what everyone else looked like they were getting. And he was the only guy that was paying me any attention at the time. Also, after grieving the loss of my father, I really craved a connection with a man.
We argued a lot. He called me names, including the “b” word and called me stupid on more than one occasion. But I think the thing that stuck with me the most was a statement he made to me one night when he calmly said,
I am a saint to be with you. You are lucky to have me. No one else would want to put up with you. No other man would want to deal with you.
I eventually strummed up enough self love to realize I did not want to be in a relationship with him anymore and I broke things off after 6 months of abuse. Of course I got a verbal lashing for that, but inherently, I’m not sure if I knew that the awful things he said to me were lies. Consequently, severe psychological damage had been done.
The idea that no man would ever want to “deal with me” often rang into my head many years later.
Through my emotional work, I have begun to erase the negative messages this man spoke into my life. It’s not easy. And I never thought about forgiveness…until recently.
I often wondered what happened to the guy. He had reached out to me about 7 years ago by sending me an e-mail telling me that he was married and how great life was for him now, and what was I up to? I didn’t respond. The mention of his name still made me (and my family) cringe. I also couldn’t bear the thought that this jerk had found love and I still had not.
But recently there was a night I couldn’t sleep and I got this divine prompting to Google him. It was a test to my strength, I thought. I can handle whatever I found, if he was somewhere living the life with his wife and 3 kids, making lots of money, etc., I could handle it. That was his path. I have my own path. I can deal with whatever I find…
Turns out he wasn’t living the life at all. Turns out, he died nearly 5 years ago.
Now I don’t wish death on anyone, but there was something cleansing for me knowing that this man who had held so much power over my emotional life was no longer living. It was even more interesting how I had let someone have such power over me who was not even alive!
I’m sure you were probably wondering why I referred to my Google search as a “divine prompting.” I think it goes with a prayer I recently prayed to God to remove any “blockages” that will stand in my way of receiving the love I deserve. I needed to know that this person who had emotionally blocked me from receiving love…specifically receiving love from myself through his negative words was no longer a factor…literally and figuratively. And now that I knew this, I could forgive him…and let those lies he told me go.
God gave me a gentle nudge toward forgiveness, not to benefit the guy (because he’s dead). But the benefit is all mine.
“We’re even entitled to opinions! And yes, we do have some of those. We can think appropriately and rationally. We even have the power to evaluate ourselves and our thoughts, so we can correct our thinking when it becomes disastrous or irrational.” -Melody Beattie, Codependent No More
Everyone knows not to care about what other people think right? It’s common knowledge to go with our own heart without listening to the opinions of others. We all know to do this, don’t we?
Well, we may know to follow our own heart, but can we all truly say that we do it all the time and in all areas of our lives? Can we truly say that the opinions of others have no bearing on the things we do and the decisions we make?
I know I can’t. There is a small part of me (it’s getting smaller and smaller) that wants to people-please and that wants people to like me. I want people’s opinions to be favorable, I want people to understand and validate the decisions I make. With that being said, as I was petting my cat Samson a few days ago, as he used me as a pillow, constricting my air supply, I began to reflect on an opinion someone had of me several years ago…
Before I became a cat mama, I lived alone and I thought that perhaps getting a cat may be a good idea. I was lonely and longed for some kind of connection. I had never been an “animal person,” but I figured cats were pretty self sufficient. I told a then “friend” my intentions. She told me that she didn’t think it was a good idea.
Cats are self sufficient, but they still take a lot of work. You have to clean their litter boxes daily, feed them, clean up after them. I’ve seen how you keep house. You don’t do laundry on a regular basis. I just don’t think you’re ready for that kind of responsibility.
So basically, my “friend” was telling me that I couldn’t be a cat mama because I was not June Cleaver. Okay, maybe I’m exaggerating, but my “friend” made a judgment about me based on what she saw externally. Not based upon what was going on in my heart.
This won’t be a long post. For those of you who know me, the rest is history. My Samson kitty kind of fell into my life and changed my life. Nearly 10 years later, he means the world to me. He has inspired my doctoral work. And I have taken good care of him, and he has taken good care of me. All of this despite my shortcomings in the housework arena.
The bottom line: Samson is still in my life. That “friend” is not.
Value people’s opinions that have earned the right to speak truth into your life, but always go with your own heart.
Conceptually, I understand the principal behind positive thinking, positive affirmations, or “re-framing” the negative thoughts or labels I make about myself. I understand this. It makes sense.
Putting it into practice is a different story.
Last weekend I attended a local 12 Step Conference where the topic was “healthy communication.” I’m thinking, this is cool. This will give me tools on how to communicate healthier with my mom, my friends, colleagues, and even people I don’t like. Maybe I will learn how to communicate with my future special guy. Hell, maybe this conference will even give me tools on better communication with the cat. But in the expectations of the things I would learn about communicating with others, there was one very important person I left out of the equation.
Healthy communication with myself has to be a priority. Now I’m not talking about sitting around talking to myself (which is not necessarily a bad thing), but I admit to calling myself names, I admit to being hard on myself, I admit to being negative to myself more often than I give myself praise and admiration.
This is something that needs work in my life. But specifically what I learned this weekend is that negative self-talk is a nasty cyclical process. I realized that the reason I usually speak negative words into my own life is because they are a defense mechanism. I’m going to call myself something negative before you get the chance to. If I do it, this will lessen the blow because I believe you believe that about me anyway. For example, if I believe I’ve done something stupid, I’m more prone to say I am so stupid before you get a chance to say to me, that was so stupid. This hurts less, right?
Wrong. Because as soon as I put that negative word or concept about myself out into the Universe, the more likely people are going to treat me that way. Then, I’m going to get mad at you for treating me that way even though I just claimed the negativity. And then the process starts itself all over again.
I love the awareness I have about this now. I’ve never been one to speak empty affirmations or lie to myself about the way I feel. Especially now that I know that feeling feelings are okay. But now that I see the practical effects of speaking positive thoughts into my life, I’m going to try and be more conscious of what comes out of my mouth…specifically about myself.
My challenge comes with quickly re-framing the thoughts. Yesterday, something negative came out of my mouth before I could even catch it. Luckily, I have friends that quickly correct me if I don’t do it first. The negative thoughts about myself are going to come up, but I have to learn how to catch the thoughts and transform them into TRUTH.
And here is a bonus. What is that TRUTH? It’s the way God sees me: wonderful, beautiful, and loved.