Thursday, December 30, 2008 (This Day)

december08-050A coworker stopped by work yesterday with her dog, for a visit.  He did great, considering he’s not a therapy dog.  He’s very cute, and very spoiled.  It interests me greatly, the roles our dogs play in our lives.  This one belongs to one of my favorite people at work, one of the truly, truly good guys.  It’s a huge blessing that I get to work with these people, to do this, and get paid.

I met today with a family I didn’t know.  More awesome people.  I’m so lucky that I can do something for them.

I went to the doctor after that, and I now need to go for more tests.  I haven’t been quite right for some time.  When I was a kid, I thought of myself as sickly.  I had allergies and knee surgeries.  But after that, and till now, and still, I’ve been mostly very healthy.  I don’t like not feeling well, and I don’t like doctors, and I don’t like worry.  So I guess I should join the club.

So for a NewYear’s resolution I’ll choose to be healthier, in as much as it’s in my control.  I’m also going to try hard to guard against and give up complacency.  I’m pretty sure I can’t be grateful and complacent at the same time.  This in regard to my work, my family, my sobriety, and of course my health.  Two thousand eight was very very good to me, and I could have appreciated it more.

Single Working Motherhood (My Story continued)

The years after I moved back to my hometown, near my mother, in-laws, and extended family, were good, quiet years.  My kids were 4 and 6 at the beginning, and 10 and 12 when we left that place.  They were very good kids.  Still are, but those early school years were especially free from the troubles of adolescence and young adulthood.  Not only is that a good time of life for parenting kids, in my opinion, but my specific kids were very good, easy, fun kids to parent.

As I’ve written, it was not my choice to be single, to have my kids attend day care, to go back to school or to work,  but I can absolutely see now that it was for the best.  When I saw that it was inevitable, and not within my control, I like to think I got quickly to the business of making it work and making it good.  My kids were the most important thing to me, and their quality of life was my primary concern.  I had wanted them very much, and in a way I feel I called them into being.  They exist because of choices I made, and was able to carry out.  Not through my own doing.  So they were desired and, at the same time, a gift.

I was back in the place where I had gotten sober, and some of the people in the program knew me from when I was 16 and brand new.  I guess I had about 8 years sober when I moved back.  Through those years, I went to meetings, at least one a week.  This is not recommended.  It isn’t enough.  But it’s what I did.  I made one meeting a week my minimum, and I often went to more.  As a result of this, I never did the drift away from meetings that so many people report precedes a slip.  So it worked for me.

I went to school and to work.  I had a lot of support from my mother and in-laws.  I thought that was very important, and so I let go of parenting things and let them, for example, have unlimited TV at my mother’s house.  They went to the schools I had gone to, and I loved the tradition of that.  I worked where my mother worked (she gave me the job), and I loved the tradition of that, and came to love the work.

Now I’ve heard enough stories in AA to know that I may be terribly wrong about this (oh, sure, my mother thought everything was wonderful!), but I think it was a good time of life for the kids and for me.  I could not take care of anything when I drank, and I have no question that if I had not killed them, they would have been taken away from me then.  AA also made me a better person and a better mother, and gave me resources of people and advice that are the best in the world.

I’ve heard enough stories, too, to know that this is one of the primary blessings of my life.  I have heard of tragedies and disasters that are much less than tragic, but the pain of a parent who abused or neglected or embarrassed their children due to the drinking is some of the worst pain in my little world.  I don’t often like to talk about it, except to young people who have a chance to parent sober the way I did.  Otherwise I know that if I mention this blessing in an AA meeting there will be many listening who were not as lucky as I have been.

People will sometimes ask me if I know how lucky I am to have stopped drinking at such a young age, with so much of life still ahead.  As much as I can, I know.  I’ve also given my children a far different legacy than my parents gave me.  Writing this right now, I imagine that if I ever feel like drinking, like actually taking a drink, this gratitude is enough to stop me cold.  The time I’ve written about here was a sweet time.  It just was.  I didn’t work for it or deserve it, and a similar time may or may not come again.  It’s all from AA, though.  All of it.

We Got a Pretty Severe Shock (Step Eight Continued)

When listing the people we had harmed, most of us hit another solid obstacle.  We got a pretty severe shock when we realized that we were preparing to make a face-to-face admission of our wretched conduct to those we had hurt.  It had been embarrassing enough when in confidence we had admitted these things to God, to ourselves, and to another human being.  But the prospect of actually visiting or even writing the people concerned now overwhelmed us, especially when we remembered in what poor favor we stood with most of them.  There were cases, too, where we had damaged others who were still happily unaware of being hurt.  Why, we cried, shouldn’t bygones be bygones?  Why do we have to think of these people at all?  These were som of the ways in which fear conspired with pride to hinder our making a list of all the people we had harmed.

I don’t want to pass this off lightly, and I won’t.  The thing is I’m not quite sure what to do with this.  I understand that my first Step Eight happened long ago and far away, and that in going through the steps again, for the third time in 24 years of sobriety, I’m taking a deeper, better, newer look.  Hopefully I’ve made amends as I’ve gone through life for the past 24 years, sober in AA.  That’s the ideal and the plan anyway.

Coming at this from a new and present perspective, and listing the people I have trouble with at work first on the “list,” I’m pretty much stymied as to how to proceed.  I’ve known these people only in sobriety, and I really hope my behavior hasn’t been “wretched,” but I don’t want to gloss over it if it has been.

Food for thought, and I will continue.

December 24, 2008 (This Day at This Time)

wreathMy Google reader had over 100 blog entries I hadn’t read.  I unsubscribed to a few, but I know I haven’t had much time lately.  I worked Monday and Tuesday, and I went for a recheck at the oral surgeon yesterday.  There I found that the “plug” hadn’t fallen out, and that everything looked good, but that I hadn’t healed at all.  In answer to my question, given before I asked, the doctor said there was no reason and nothing I could do about it, and he took that one out and gave me another.  Which fell last night.

So I have an onimous hole in my gum, and instructions to call the office Friday and go in.  The doctor said he was plugging it again so nothing get in there.  Which now it might.

OK this is not what I want to be writing about on Christmas Eve!  This morning Carole, Nicholas and I went to Erika’s company’s Christmas breakfast, and it was very nice.  It looks like she has a nice place to work and that she enjoys it, which is major for my life.  She came over for dinner and now she’s taking Nicholas back to her place to help her wrap presents.  Carole and I will go to church.  Carole is being assistant minister, and I really don’t like being in church without her next to me, plus the extra time it takes her to be there early and stay late.  I usually don’t go on those days, but tonight I’m sucking it up.

Erika is not going to sleep over, partly I guess because she’d have to sleep on the couch or air mattress.  This will be my first Christmas Eve night without her in her whole life, and fully half of mine.  There are other family members I won’t be seeing.  My mother pointed out to me in email that the family probably won’t ever be together again in the extended form it took two years ago, at my mother’s retirement party.

Tomorrow Carole, Erika, Nicholas and I will go over a friend’s house for Christmas dinner.  This is a newer friend, someone we’ve known for not even three years, though those two have been intense.  I don’t know if we’re starting new traditions here or just getting by for a while.  I know my gratitude list is intact and fully full.  Everyone and everything important to me is OK today, for now, for the people who remain.  I don’t like the letting go aspects of getting older (even letting go of teeth today!) but I am so aware that I could not have imagined this life or these people, not on my very best day drunk.

I hope the bloggers who make my internet time complete are happy and healthy also.  Especially the one I unsubcribed.

Sunday, December 21, 2008 (This Day at This Time)

roomI cut off my head to be anonymous.

This is Sunday morning.  Carole is visiting her family for a few days.  Erika called me last night because she was trying to call her brother to get directions to somewhere.  He’s here, but his phone charger isn’t.  I asked her to come over today and she said she will, plus he needs a ride to get his phone charger.  He had his four wisdom teeth out last Wednesday, and he recovered quickly.  Much more quickly than I did with my extraction and implant.  I’m still not all right with that, and I have to go back on Tuesday.  But I’m mostly OK.

I think that today I’ll be able to stay in all day.  I really like to stay in.  I usually like to stay in.  Yesterday I had shopping (yuck) and my AA meeting, tomorrow there is work.  If Carole was here I’d go to church but she isn’t and I’m not.  I should go.  But I’m not.  I’ll go on Christmas Eve so that will be an extra!

The picture is of my new room.  Erika moved out of it eight days ago (but who’s counting?).  She did it well.  She’s 23, she graduated from college (in four years with honors), she has money in the bank and no debt.  The only down side I see is that it’s one step closer to her moving far away.  But for now I couldn’t be happier.

I hadn’t pictured that she’d take all of her stuff.  I knew I wanted to use the space for myself, but I pictured having more of her there than the paint color (which I never would have chosen) and the curtains.  So making it my room is a new concept to me, but one I’ve taken to very quickly.  I’m having so much fun.  I haven’t had my own room since I moved out of my mother’s house when I was 22.  Even as a single mom, I slept in the living room, giving the kids the bedrooms and being in a place where I felt the schools were best, because that’s what was most important to me at that time.  Carole and I share the bedroom, bathroom, living room, kitchen, dining room, yard and …….. that’s it.  I have my car and she has hers.  Now I have my room and she has hers.  But we still sleep together.  Just sayin.’

So that’s fun and all is pretty well.  As I’m writing this Joe Biden was just on TV, and he was asked about Rick Warren giving the invocation.  For the past eight years, when Bush or talk of Bush came on TV or the radio, I turned the channel.  I’ve been happy not to do that since the election, and here I am choked up and not in a good way about this.  They ran a clip of Rick Warren comparing gay marriage to marrying several people at one time, to marrying children – polygamy and pedophilia.  Biden gave it the gloss of “bringing people together” and I could cry.  I don’t want to be together with people who compare me to a pedophile.  How many gay people has he known well?  Seriously, there must have been a few.  Yet he makes statements like that, and Obama picks him over all other Americans to pray for us all on inauguration day.

Life on life’s terms. Not life on Lydia’s terms.

It Is What It Is

808-023This is getting to be one of the most overdone expressions around lately, and I vastly prefer “life on life’s terms.”  Life on life’s terms is from the Big Book or the Step Book (not sure which), so of course I like it better.  It also reminds me that my problem is with life’s terms. Sickness, pain, death, suffering, unfairness, unkindness, acts of nature, acts of God – all these are life’s terms. My lack of acceptance gives me grief.

So, it is what it is.  Regular people use this expression.  Accept the things you cannot change.

A dear friend and co worker of mine in not in the program, and I hear her suffer different things all the time.  Once I told her “accept the things you cannot change” and she replied, “Can’t I change it?”  Knowing the difference is oh so important, too.

I try not to dwell on the unpleasant things I can’t change and have to accept.  I think I do a fairly good job.  Other drivers don’t usually bother me, nor does the state of my aging body – much.  I usually try to find the bright side.  We’re repurposing my daughter’s room to be MINE, and the tape marks on the wall don’t bother me at all.  The carpet bothers me a lot, but it’s something I can change.  While it’s here, I try to quickly divert me thoughts from it.

In the middle of writing this, I heard that our president elect has made a choice I very much disagree with.  I hoped, briefly, that this isn’t a sign of things to come, but really, it is what it is. He is who he is, and he’s been elected, and he’s ours, and he’ll be much easier to accept than the previous one.

When Listing the People We Had Harmed (Step Eight continued)

When listing the people we had harmed, most of us hit another solid obstacle.

I decided to write more on the eighth step, read the next paragraph, and took a shower and thought about it.  The paragraph goes on to say that the thought of facing these people face to face and admitting our wrongs stops us again.  I need to think about that, because I’m seriously considering how to go about this in the near future at this time in my sobriety.  However, there are things I need to record about the list itself.

It’s interesting for me to see what I have written, because now I know just how long I’ve been thinking about doing this or that, and what actually done about it.  I’ve been trying to improve and expand my prayer life, I’m afraid for probably ten months now.  In addition to needing to kick up the number and quality of prayers I say beyond my usual gratitude list and quick plea for help, I didn’t ordinarily pray for people.

It’s a common suggestion and so one I’ve tried many times, to pray for the person who is giving my grief for some minimum amount of time.  I’ve done that, and it hasn’t helped my feelings about the person, and it hasn’t helped me feel better, and I don’t like it.  I’ve pretty much discarded it as a strategy that will work for me, though of course as new situations present themselves, the good people of AA suggest it to me again and again.  And in theory I know they are right and that they have more knowledge than I do and that I only have to pay for the suggestions I don’t take.

I’ve even tried at times to list people in categories like they do in my church and pray for people who are sick, people who are unemployed, people who are trouble of whatever kind, listing the people I know.  I like that better, but still don’t like it much, and I never stuck to it.

A while ago, when I was writing prayers in difficult work situations to get through, I listed the people I generally would pray for or worry about, and decided to try paying prayerful attention to them one at a time, rather than in a list form.  There were ten or fifteen people on my list:  my immediate family and best friends, others in my daily life who are struggling with one thing or another. I changed the person every day or every other day, depending on how much time I had to spend on “prayer.”  Then I started listing the person in the sidebar of this blog, and that has helped me a lot.  A few times a day now I think of who is listed right now and what they need or what I hope for them.  I’ve even called the person or emailed or said “yes” when they asked me for something or in one case I just did a favor that I was able to do, without being asked and without giving the person any chance to say no.  I’m liking this a lot.

I’ve had two recent revelations regarding this list.  First, I realized a few days ago, while contemplating Step Eight and a particular problem someone in my life was having, I had failed to list the people who give me trouble. Not my family and friends who give me trouble.  Those very few people who I resent highly and for so very long at work.  I had not listed them.  I had not prayed for them.  While the two week thing that’s always suggested has not worked for me, I think that adding them to my list of regular concerns will help me, and surely it won’t hurt them.  So they’ve joined my list.

The second revelation happened this morning at work in the morning meeting.  I haven’t been bringing the prayers there with me because I’ve been doing much better with being happy and grateful and present lately, but yesterday and this morning were difficult, so I took the book with me.  I began to rewrite the prayer list as I had been doing frequently and thinking about if anyone needed to be added or dropped, and I realized that I don’t know who Heather is.  Or James.  Or how they got on my list.  Or why I put them there.

Of course I know lots of people named Heather and James, but no one I can consciously think of reason to pray for beyond the usual.  So I guess I need to be more selective about who I put on the list, and make sure I’ll remember who they are a few days later.

So this is not a list of people I have harmed, although maybe in a large cosmic sense I have harmed each one in some way or other.  But it’s a list, and it now contains the people I have the most trouble loving and accepting along with the others who are easy to love.  I’m sure that if I decide later with this step to make an actual list, my prayer list is where I will start.

Snags on the Way to Home Again (my story continued)

125It was right before the start of my daughter’s kindergarten that my ex decided to leave me.  We had just bought a house, and I’m still a bit bitter about all that.  It’s a joke with people who know me.  I am not spontaneous.  I am the opposite of spontaneous, and so I planned to move back to my home town in a little less than a year, or over the next summer.  It’s not ideal to me that Erika had to start school in a place she was leaving, but that’s what is was.  Over the year, I went to school to begin a master’s, I bought a new car, I found a place to live and enrolled Erika in school, myself in school, and Nicholas in day care.

I don’t remember the exact timing of these things, but one thing is worth recording.  As I have written about, I drank through most of college and I was not one of those people who could function just fine while drinking. I failed classes, I dropped classes, and I nearly died.  I didn’t graduate on time, and I finally achieved a sobriety that was to last just before my final two classes.  I graduated with a 2.3.  I understand that people have different intellectual abilities and different abilities to do “school,” but this was an extremely poor result for me.

When I applied to begin my master’s at my school, they wouldn’t take me.  My GPA was too low to be allowed in.  Now this was a moderately priced university and I was a paying customer, but I had done so poorly in the past that they said no.  That was I think the first and maybe only huge, tangible   price I almost paid for my drinking behavior.

I had taken a few classes where I lived at the time, and finally based on my good grades with those, and along with some begging and pleading, they agreed to let me in on probation, and I needed a B or better in my first three classes to continue.  The very nice dean who finally agreed to give me a second chance asked what had been up with my undergratuate grades.  I told her truthfully that I had been a partier.  Only thing was, I was the only guest at most of my parties.

I found a place to rent for me and my kids in my old hometown and actually right next door to the church of my childhood.  Just as that was to take place, they told me the renovations would not be finished on time for me and Erika to start school.  They said I could use the address, and live elsewhere but start Erika in school that way.  The school was actually the one I had attended for second, third and fourth grade.  I could have moved in with my mother, in a nearby town, and tried it that way, but I was afraid it wouldn’t all work out, and I wanted stability for her in school.  So at the last minute I went out searching for something to rent.

I was 30 that year, I think.  The real estate agent who took me around to look for a place had been a very good friend of mine in fifth and sixth grade.  Just then, when we were 30, she was working in a real estate office (obviously) and struggling with infertility.  Fertility issues have always given me pause, because I wanted children more than anything, and because my mother and her sisters had been so infertile as to only produce me between the three of them.  My world wasn’t stellar at that point, that’s for sure, but I was always aware how very lucky I was to have those children.  Luckier even at that time, since if my ex and I had waited to have children, it probably wouldn’t have happened.

I did find a house in time, and I stayed there with the kids for seven years.  Erika and I started school, and Nicholas started limited day care.  I had not wanted that for him, but it turned out as well as it could have.  He did fine with it, and I remain grateful that I got to stay home with him as long as I did.

There were scary and frantic moments in all of those adjustments, and program principles are what got me through.  One saving notion was the understanding I had that I could not control my ex or his actions, and I steadfastly tried not to even attempt it.  I see lots of misery resulting from that scenario and I’m so glad that didn’t happen to me.

Too Much Going On! (This Day at This Time)

I want to write about teeth, and no doubt I will at some point.  I had an extraction and dental implant last Monday, and I still feel much more ill than I should.  I’ve been mostly going to work and going to bed without doing much else.

To add excitement to that grim scenario, my daughter is moving out of my house TODAY.  She has an apartment and a truck and that’s what I’ll be doing today.  If I can.  I’m going to try.  Yesterday walking the dog up a hill made me so dizzy I went to bed.

I don’t know what’s wrong with me except to think that the drugs and pain and disturbance to my system are making me ill.  Tuesday, I felt OK but I was flushed. Carole called the doctor (I wouldn’t have) and they said I was having a reaction to the antibiotic.  I’ve never had a bad reaction to a drug before, although I don’t take many.  So I got another antibiotic and I keep trying to wear the invisiline fake tooth, or not wear it.  I’m miserable.

I can’t feel right when this feels so wrong.  Perhaps it is working as a distraction so I don’t have a breakdown that my favorite daughter is moving out, and may never live with me again.  She’s been here with me (wherever here is, and it’s varied widely) for half of my life.  The better half.

More soon ……

Isolating and Introversion

thanksgiving08-007I reflect from time to time on the fact that I am naturally shy and introverted.  I really don’t like attention, even the attention of someone cutting my hair or someone watching me do something.  Even just prolonged glances from someone.  And I don’t enjoy meeting people.  In fact, I hate it.  I don’t like making small talk, especially in a group of people.

This is not a good quality for someone in AA, not good at all.  By it’s nature it’s social.  And considering how many years I’ve been at it, and how many meetings I’ve attended, and how many times I’ve moved in sobriety and been new, you’d think I’d be better at it and more comfortable than I am.

But I’ve buckled down through all of the social things AA has made me do, and I’ve called people and asked them for help and I’ve told the gory details to strangers and asked people to lead meetings and all those things.

And for all my introversion, I don’t think I’ve ever really isolated.  In trouble I tend to reach out more, which is good for me.  The usual thoughts about isolating being bad and dangerous attest to the fact that for me, on my own, I dwell in the problem, usually, while others will try and guide me toward the solution.  I’ve heard the phrase, “Your best thinking got you here,” meaning if I had it all figured out, I wouldn’t have ended up in AA.  Also that it was truly my very best thinking that lead to me AA and on toward the solution.

While I don’t isolate, I do know that I should reach out more, and cut through that introversion, especially in AA.  It was a fairly recent revelation for me to realize that my shyness can actually make other people uncomfortable.  And I really don’t want to do that.