There’s the One Taken at Day’s End (Step Ten continued)

There’s the one [inventory] taken at day’s end, when we review the happenings of the hours just past.  Here we cast up a balance sheet, crediting ourselves with things well done, and chalking up debits where due.

I don’t think I’ve ever done this, and I know I haven’t done it formally for any amount of time.  I know from reading, and I don’t know if it’s written in this step or not, that I am to ask myself if I’ve been angry or jealous or dishonest or mean.

The thought of doing this every day does not appeal to me, and I’ve sat here trying to picture fitting this in every day, when and where I will do it, and how.  I have to give it a go though.  I’m on the search for more serenity and better living, and I can’t disregard the instructions, no matter how distasteful they seem.

When all else fails, follow directions.

I’ve reached into a cubby in my desk and pulled out a blank notebook.  I don’t know when I bought it or what is was for, but it’s now to be a daily written inventory.  I’ll probably take it to work with me so I can note things as they occur.  I will do this for 90 days beginning tomorrow, then see after that time if it’s profitable, if I need to continue, or if it’s worked its way into my routine.

Live and Let Live

february09-028I’m fortunate in that I had a very liberal upbringing.  I never thought it was OK to be prejudiced, and I thought differentness and variety were  good things.  Honestly the hardest time I have with people is when they lack tolerance.  I can tolerate anything but intolerance.  And yes I do see the hypocrisy there.  So blah blah, consenting adults and all that happy crap.  It’s not something I had to struggle with.

I want to take this to a deeper level now, and to a greater understanding.  There are two aspects of this.  One, I have to apply it to people I don’t know and two, I have to apply it to people I know.

It’s popular to say these days something like, “I don’t have to like something in order to accept it.”  Thus we draw our attention away from unpleasant things by painting them with this brush.  I can easily find a hundred issues that I don’t like but can say I accept:  the money and attention some people give to sports; the weather (whatever the weather may be); crime of all sorts; politics of all sorts.  And on and on.  I can accept and dislike how my son spends his money; the wind chimes next door; my refrigerator; the way my cats are calling to be fed right now (and constantly); my (lack of) height; my age; my reproductive equipment.

I think this is missing the point, or if not that, maybe it’s only about half way to the point.  Am I really accepting these things I dislike?

In looking at the meaning of the word accept, only of one definitions has to do with negativity.  Accept means to receive with approval or favor, to agree to, to respond affirmatively, to regard as true or sound.  The sort of negative word used, reconcile, has the meaning of accepting something not desired.  But the other meanings of that word include to win over, to bring into friendship or harmony, to make compatible.

So when I try to live and let live, I want to go beyond acceptance of what other people do.  I want to see and understand the good in other people and in what they do.

I doubt I’ll be able to do this with things that seems truly awful.  I don’t know why human and animal nature sometimes includes cruelty.  I do want to the see the good aspects of the cruel people though.

I get hung up when the people I’m trying to let live influence me a lot.  It’s most difficult with the people I spend the most time with.  Over and over and over again I strive to change their behavior to make my life more enjoyable and easy.  Also with people I’m called to mold and judge.  My children, number one, and also when I’m supervising at work.  Here I am bound to call to people’s attention the things they do that are wrong (based on my superior experience and judgment) and show them how to do it right.  Difficult, difficult, difficult.  This calls for a degree of humility I can’t really even imagine.

Maybe tomorrow, but if not tomorrow then soon, I may be asked to do something different at work, and I don’t know what that will be.  I’m trying to imagine how I could possibly use this slogan to do better and gain more serenity.  Right now it looks like a tremendous muddle and impossible dream.

Melting Down, Freezing Up, Bleeding Out

I’m depressed.  Like, sad and down.  I think too many things have built up and come together this weekend.

I had a fairly good week at work.  I was mostly on my own managing, which was fine.  Part of what’s wrong with me is that my partner returns Monday, and although I’m glad, it really is more pleasant minute by minute without her.  Our boss’ boss wants to meet with us Monday.  He’s talked about restructing and a plan of action but we don’t know what he has in mind.  Whenever I perceive that my job is about to change, it makes me anxious.  Selfishly, I’m always afraid that I won’t love what comes next as much as I’ve loved it up until now, and that I won’t be able to show up for a job I don’t love.  At the same time I’ve lost a lot of my hope that change will bring something good, something better.  I’ll have been at this place eleven years at the end of June.  Sometimes when I hear inspiring words about trying again and learning from mistakes and going forward I feel that surge of hope again, and sometimes I give into it.  I also know that these outward conditions cannot should not will not control the way I feel.  The emotions that I bring to this need to be consistently good.  One thing remains constant and that is the need of the people I serve and my joy in serving them.

Earlier in the week, Erika told me she plans on moving away, and I believe that she does and that she will and that she should.  But God I will miss her and worry about her.

The weather has added to my pit.  We had a few days of warm temps that were so cheering, then we were back into the deep freeze.  Days are longer and sometimes they are even sunny, but still mostly cold and sometimes bitterly cold.  An interesting thing about this climate and my relationship to it is that I did not choose it.  I live here to live with Carole.  But I really and truly think this is the best climate for me.  I hate heat and I’ve lived in very hot places.  I can stand cold much better than heat.  And it doesn’t get very hot here for very long, but we still have the full season of summer.  But even though I like it, and I know that spring will surely arrive soon, it’s depressing to me to think about putting on the heavy heavy coat again just to go outside, and to think about my muscles tensing up and clenching up and being cold cold cold.

Physically, my good humor (ha!) and ability to stand my never ending mentruation is leaving me.  Interested parties can consult The Menopause Chronicles for the gory details, but mama never told me there would be weeks like this.  That’s because my mama and most women I know of a certain age had hysterectomies.  The books I’m reading think that is a shame, but I wonder how much the women authors bled.  I’m as half hearted a feminist as anyone, and I had a subscription to Ms. magazine, and I tried to birth my babies without intervention (the first one anyway) and I breastfed them till they left for college, practially.  But this is awful.  Carole said tonight I should have a hysterectomy and have it over with.  Thing is, how do I know it’s not going to stop tomorrow, for good, and major surgery would have saved me one day or one week or one month of blood?  Same with taking hormones.  Most of the time I’m brave, but not tonight, not this weekend.  It’s wearing me out.  And what makes it all so much more difficult is that I never know when it will come or how long it will last.  I have hope that it will all only take a year or two, but it could be longer.  It could be longer.

Then a friend was “guest” chairing my home group’s meeting tomorrow night.  Last week she told us that she got a better offer and needed someone to fill in.  I said I would.  I’m a little put off by this, but the offer she got really was better, and she’s about the only one who helps the meeting out by guest chairing.  So OK.  Then Carole decided to go to an AA function that night, so she won’t be helping me with the chairing or the meeting.  OK again.  It truly never bothers me when she goes to things I don’t want to go to, but I’d rather not do the meeting “alone” even though lots of people will be there.  But I often do it alone.  Annoying this time but OK.

Then today around when I found out I’d be locking up the place at work, which was annoying, Carole asked me to do something on Sunday that I don’t want to do and that will take several hours.  I balked and finally complained about the meeting Saturday night and now the Sunday stuff added in.  I honestly found myself wishing it was Monday already although working Friday, having a weekend that is too full with unknown physical complications, then working again all next week was overwhelming me.  When I let her know that she, as always, said I didn’t have to participate Sunday, although she wants me to.  This is a depressing element of our relationship.  We work with it pretty well but I can’t get past the fact that she wishes I was into this stuff and happy about it and wanting to do it right alongside her.  Once she’s asked me and I’ve let on that I don’t want to, there is no solution that can make everything OK.  Either I don’t participate and feel bad and give her bad feelings, or I do participate and give myself and her bad feelings about me really not wanting to.

I got home and she got home and we might have dealt with that, but then we got some bad news about Nicholas.  He’s OK, for now, but he did something dangerous and it’s all very very frightening.  Very frightening.  After that had sunk in, she let me know about some negative feelings she has about something else I’m intending to do soon – something I’m looking forward to that now has a major damper on it.

And that’s about it for the moment.  When we heard about Nicholas, Carole said something to me like, “What do you think?”  And I said something like, “I think God is saying to me, ‘So you think you’re going to have a bad weekend?  I’ll give you a bad weekend, you ungrateful twat.'”  I don’t really think God said that or arranged these things, but as I was sinking into my hole I had the awareness that these are all, each and every single one, luxury problems of the highest order.

For my menopause problems, I have available to me some of the best medical treatment in the world, and for free.  I have access to all the information in the world.  And what’s happening to me is a normal part of aging, not something pathological.

My work and my work environment are blessed.  I’m safe and comfortable there, and I’m able to use my body, mind and soul to their utmost.  I work with some of the best people in the world.

My home group is wonderful.  I love my meeting and the people who go to it.  It’s so nearby it is no trouble to set it up and tear it down.  It’s slightly different from most meetings around here, but people have embraced it.  I like the regulars and, since it’s Saturday night, the people who come just a few times are interesting as well.

Nicholas is OK for now, and he also has all the resources of the world available to help him.  That doesn’t mean he’ll be fine, not by any means, but so many mothers tonight are in so much pain over so many sons who were born just when he was.  Some mothers have already lost those sons, others don’t know where they are, others watch them suffer.

Ultimately I have faith that Carole and I will work out our little problems, at least to some degree.  I think we’re both old enough to understand and accept that it won’t be 100% meshed all the time in partnered bliss, and maybe that’s why we’ve lasted this long.  Even given that, though, I think we’re both still here because we want to be.  I know I am.  I believe that our relationship will outlast all the little issues that get in our way today.  I really want her there, should I be lucky enough to achieve old age.

So my years of AA have taught me how to spit out the positive side of each and every situation I confront, and I’m grateful.  But tonight it really seems like way too much to bear in happy serenity.  I’m very very sad, and a bit frightened, and I don’t intend to live in this mood, but it almost feels to me like I need to give into it for a little while in order to be able to come out of it.

I really don’t know.

March 10, 2009 (this day)

For the first time since I started carrying it, I forgot to take my “let go and let God” rock to work with me in my pocket.  A while ago I did send it through the wash, and the words mostly wore off.  I asked Erika if Sharpie on glass would stay and she said it would.  She works in a lab and they use it there.  I tried it but it wore off quickly.  Still I carried the rock and clutched it at pertinent times thinking “let go and let God.”  But today I forgot it.

I’ve been mostly on my own at work the past two days.  My partner is on vacation for the week, and the supervisor has been out sick.  That’s left me mostly in charge by myself of 20-25 staff and responsible for all the clients.  In many ways, maybe in most ways, I actually prefer being on my own.  But ultimately I don’t like the feeling of all that responsibility and no one to share it with.  It can be a good feeling that I’m able to play a part in bringing everybody successfully and safely through the day.  But I much prefer taking care of people and the writing that I do at work to being any kind of cop.

december08-046

I find these posts about my day very difficult to write.  To say what I did to stay sober today (beyond writing this) – I read The Sermon on the Mount before work.  I read As Bill Sees It at work.  I clutched my key ring in place of my let go and let god stone.  I read a prayer at noon and thought many times that it’s actually currently someone at work I am concentrating my prayers and attention on.

Thinking about it, I did not do these things to stay sober.  Drinking didn’t enter my mind today till just now, writing about it, and most days it doesn’t enter my mind at all.  There was a terrible accident in the middle of the night in which someone was driving on the wrong side of a divided highway.  I thought alcohol might have been involved in that.  But I didn’t have any other thoughts of it.

I did those things to improve the quality of my sobriety and to achieve more serenity.

I just helped Erika take some pictures she’ll use to try and sell hemp necklaces she makes on ESTY.  I’ll read and maybe clean a bit, read message boards and blogs and try not to eat too much.  And try not to let good old menopause wreck the evening.

If If We Would Live Serenely Today and Tomorrow (Step Ten continued)

february09-034If we would live serenely today and tomorrow, we certainly need to eliminate these [emotional] hangovers.  This doesn’t mean we need to wander morbidly around in the past.  It requires an admission and correction of errors now.  Our inventory enables us to settle with the past.  When this is done, we are really able to leave it behind us.  When our inventory is carefully taken, and we have made peace with ourselves, the conviction follows that tomorrow’s challenges can be met as they come.

Although all inventories are alike in principle, the time factor does distinguish one from another.  There’s the stop-check inventory, taken at any time of the day, whenever we find ourselves getting tangled up.

Whenever I find myself getting tangled up, I usually do go to the inventory pretty quickly.  Sometimes.  Usually.  Often.  After a while, when my negative emotions subside a bit, I do remember that at the bottom of my distress is me, and something wrong with me, and something that needs to be changed within me.

One thing I’m struggling with is how to know if tolerance is the same as acceptance.  What I decide is wrong with me at times could be that I just need to accept that people suck.  But I think that may be missing some of the point.  I don’t know right from wrong all the time.  I don’t know what’s best all the time.  What I’m reaching for is something different within me, that’s wrong, that either thinks I’m superior and know what’s right or that fails to recognize that I don’t see the whole picture and that I’m actually the same as everyone else, not (in this case) better.

Terence, This is Stupid Stuff! (literature as a tool)

I can’t imagine that anyone would be as enamored of this poem as I am. I can’t remember the first time I was exposed to it, or if it held the same meaning for me then. It may have. I drank through lots of school, and tried AA through lots of school, and was sober through lots of school.

And I’m tickled to think of “unpacking” it.  It’s by A.E. Houseman

‘TERENCE, this is stupid stuff:
You eat your victuals fast enough;
There can’t be much amiss, ’tis clear,
To see the rate you drink your beer.

I’ve taken the fast eating of victuals and drinking of beer as a sign of good enough mental health.

But oh, good Lord, the verse you make,
It gives a chap the belly-ache.
The cow, the old cow, she is dead;
It sleeps well, the horned head:
We poor lads, ’tis our turn now
To hear such tunes as killed the cow.

Not sure what to make of the cow, but it seems to me that the things Terence writes are painful to listen to, almost to the point of death.

Pretty friendship ’tis to rhyme
Your friends to death before their time
Moping melancholy mad:
Come, pipe a tune to dance to, lad.’

The writing is sad and insane, and the readers may keel over from it. The friend is asking for happier stuff.

Why, if ’tis dancing you would be,
There’s brisker pipes than poetry.

The writer says the point of the poetry was not to make the reader happy, and for happiness, other things work better than reading poetry.

Say, for what were hop-yards meant,
Or why was Burton built on Trent?
Oh many a peer of England brews
Livelier liquor than the Muse,
And malt does more than Milton can
To justify God’s ways to man.

Alcohol will work better than poetry, even up to justifying God’s way to man.

Ale, man, ale’s the stuff to drink
For fellows whom it hurts to think:
Look into the pewter pot
To see the world as the world’s not.
And faith, ’tis pleasant till ’tis past:
The mischief is that ’twill not last.

I love the line about fellows whom it hurts to think. I’ll sometimes lovingly tell someone who says, ‘I have to think’ or ‘let me think’ not to hurt themselves. Drink in order to see the world as the world is not. But you have come down eventually.

Oh I have been to Ludlow fair
And left my necktie God knows where,
And carried half way home, or near,
Pints and quarts of Ludlow beer:
Then the world seemed none so bad,
And I myself a sterling lad;
And down in lovely muck I’ve lain,
Happy till I woke again.
Then I saw the morning sky:
Heigho, the tale was all a lie;
The world, it was the old world yet,
I was I, my things were wet,
And nothing now remained to do
But begin the game anew.

I’ve been drunk, and happy, till I woke up or came to, then I saw the tale was all a lie. I love the line ‘I was I, my things were wet.’ And then, what to do? To do it over.

Therefore, since the world has still
Much good, but much less good than ill,
And while the sun and moon endure
Luck’s a chance, but trouble’s sure,
I’d face it as a wise man would,
And train for ill and not for good.

Learning to deal with difficulty will help us in life.

’Tis true, the stuff I bring for sale
Is not so brisk a brew as ale:
Out of a stem that scored the hand
I wrung it in a weary land.
But take it: if the smack is sour,
The better for the embittered hour;
It should do good to heart and head
When your soul is in my soul’s stead;
And I will friend you, if I may,
In the dark and cloudy day.

The poetry was written from hard experience, and it may help you when things are difficult.

There was a king reigned in the East:
There, when kings will sit to feast,
They get their fill before they think
With poisoned meat and poisoned drink.
He gathered all the springs to birth
From the many-venomed earth;
First a little, thence to more,
He sampled all her killing store;
And easy, smiling, seasoned sound,
Sate the king when healths went round.
They put arsenic in his meat
And stared aghast to watch him eat;
They poured strychnine in his cup
And shook to see him drink it up:
They shook, they stared as white’s their shirt:
Them it was their poison hurt.
—I tell the tale that I heard told.
Mithridates, he died old.

This king was allegedly unable to be killed or commit suicide by poison, since he was immune to it. The big things or the little things won’t destroy us if we deal with them a bit at a time.

I love this poem! I wish someone I knew in real life loved it too. But through the years it’s given me pleasure to read. It has many things that ring true to me, put in such a fanciful (for my time at least) story. Drinking often makes things appear to be better, though they’re not. My own drunkenness always got out of hand and made me sick. The aftermath left nothing but more of the same. It actually prevented me from developing life skills that would help me live rightly.

I was I, my things were wet.

 

I love that.

Literature as a Tool

akron08-040This is me, in Akron, Ohio, in the house next door to Dr. Bob’s house.  The pictures are of pioneer AAs, and the books include many of the books they used to form the program or that greatly influenced the founders.

My attitude about this is skewed, and I have an agenda.  I am very much in favor of reading and writing, in all cases.  The place where I live and participate in AA can be, at times, insular, and I’ve heard admonishes against reading or supplying literature that is not “AA approved.”  Not often.  I don’t often hear people speak against it.  But sometimes.

I offer the picture and the idea that AA was founded upon literature that was not AA approved because there was no AA to approve anything.  Yet the way our civilazation is passed down and developes is through literature and the written word.  I believe that reading is good, and that bad literature won’t hurt people or jeopardize their sobriety.

I read the Big Book at meetings and from time to time on my own.  I had the Big Book on tape, and I really like that.  I need to get it on CD now that cars won’t play tapes anymore.  I read the Step Book at meetings and on my own.  I’m working my way through that whole book line by line.  I plan to read these for the rest of my life.  There’s no other literature I can say that about, including of course the Bible.

I rotate and switch among meditation books in my desk at work.  Right now I have As Bill Sees It there.  I read other books that have to do with AA, alcoholism and spirituality.  I just finished The Camel Knows the Way because it was given to me to read by someone in the program.  I’m currently reading The Sermon on the Mount by Emmet Fox.  That was given to me to read when I was new in the program, and I’m reading it again.  I also recently read Not-God, which is a history of AA.  I mostly liked that book.

When I was new I read Living Sober and Came to Believe. I recently reread Stools and Bottles and I’ve also liked The Little Red Book. I’ve never been harmed by a book and really I think even a bad book is good to read.

I’ve considered writing several posts and making Literature as a Tool a category here, and maybe I will.  For now I will transcribe one of my favorite poems for sobriety.  My undergraduate degree is in journalism, and my master’s is in secondary education, English.   I’ve read a lot, and I enjoy it, and this poem is just about too nerdy for me to share but I’m going to anyway.

LXII. Terence, this is stupid stuff
TERENCE, this is stupid stuff:
You eat your victuals fast enough;
There can’t be much amiss, ’tis clear,
To see the rate you drink your beer.
But oh, good Lord, the verse you make,
It gives a chap the belly-ache.
The cow, the old cow, she is dead;
It sleeps well, the horned head:
We poor lads, ’tis our turn now
To hear such tunes as killed the cow.
Pretty friendship ’tis to rhyme
Your friends to death before their time
Moping melancholy mad:
Come, pipe a tune to dance to, lad.’
Why, if ’tis dancing you would be,
There’s brisker pipes than poetry.
Say, for what were hop-yards meant,
Or why was Burton built on Trent?
Oh many a peer of England brews
Livelier liquor than the Muse,
And malt does more than Milton can
To justify God’s ways to man.
Ale, man, ale’s the stuff to drink
For fellows whom it hurts to think:
Look into the pewter pot
To see the world as the world’s not.
And faith, ’tis pleasant till ’tis past:
The mischief is that ’twill not last.
Oh I have been to Ludlow fair
And left my necktie God knows where,
And carried half way home, or near,
Pints and quarts of Ludlow beer:
Then the world seemed none so bad,
And I myself a sterling lad;
And down in lovely muck I’ve lain,
Happy till I woke again.
Then I saw the morning sky:
Heigho, the tale was all a lie;
The world, it was the old world yet,
I was I, my things were wet,
And nothing now remained to do
But begin the game anew.
Therefore, since the world has still
Much good, but much less good than ill,
And while the sun and moon endure
Luck’s a chance, but trouble’s sure,
I’d face it as a wise man would,
And train for ill and not for good.
’Tis true, the stuff I bring for sale
Is not so brisk a brew as ale:
Out of a stem that scored the hand
I wrung it in a weary land.
But take it: if the smack is sour,
The better for the embittered hour;
It should do good to heart and head
When your soul is in my soul’s stead;
And I will friend you, if I may,
In the dark and cloudy day.
There was a king reigned in the East:
There, when kings will sit to feast,
They get their fill before they think
With poisoned meat and poisoned drink.
He gathered all the springs to birth
From the many-venomed earth;
First a little, thence to more,
He sampled all her killing store;
And easy, smiling, seasoned sound,
Sate the king when healths went round.
They put arsenic in his meat
And stared aghast to watch him eat;
They poured strychnine in his cup
And shook to see him drink it up:
They shook, they stared as white’s their shirt:
Them it was their poison hurt.
—I tell the tale that I heard told.
Mithridates, he died old.

A. E. Housman (1859–1936). A Shropshire Lad.  1896.