March 25, 2012 (this day)

I talked to my mother yesterday.  My cousin in getting married in May, back very near my home town.  My mother and I and one aunt will have to travel some distance to attend.  So will my daughter.  I can get very anxious thinking about logistics and traveling.  I truly prefer to stay home, and sometimes I feel like a freak.  Last night, at the meeting after my meeting, someone new joined us, and trying to explain that I don’t like AA retreats and have no desire to attend them lead me to sharing that I don’t like vacation.  I really do feel at times like there’s something wrong with me.  Like I’m one step away from not leaving my house unless I’m carted out.  I mean, I’m not afraid to leave my house, but not wanting to go on vacation is sometimes treated like being really, really messed up.

And the wedding is messed up in several ways, all of them having to do with personalities.  This side wants this, that side wants that, I’m guessing the people getting married probably just want peace.  Last family wedding I went to, my aunt passed out and didn’t even come to the next day.  I hope that this time she doesn’t drink.

Other famous alcoholics who will be in attendance are my mother and my uncle.  It’s actually my uncle’s daughter who is getting married.  He’s the one who is supposedly an alcoholic.  It must be true, my drunken mother said it is.

On my father’s side of my family, I’m paying a lawyer to see if they did me out of a rightful inheritance.

And I have no news from work yet.  Last night, someone at the meeting asked me how my job is.  I wondered for a second if he reads the blog, because I never discussed it with him.  I think he just may have been asking because of the dismal climate there is right now for human services.  Because if something needs to be cut, we should think about building business and taking things away from some of the very most fragile, vulnerable people among us.  People who cannot cheat the system and in some cases, who really can’t do much of anything at all.

Today Carole and I went to church and to the health food store for health food.  I washed the kitchen floor, she made travel arrangements (I hope), and tonight we’ll go to a meeting.  And that’s about the size of it.

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But As Time Passed (Step Twelve continued)

But as time passed we found that with the help of A.A.’s Twelve Steps we could lose those fears, no matter what our material prospects were.  We could cheerfully perform humble labor without worrying about tomorrow.

I had somehow appropriated part of the above as my own when I paraphrased “perform humble work gratefully,” or maybe the literature says “perform humble work gratefully” somewhere else.

Those fears that we could lose refer to what came just before, where I am told that while I’m depending on financial security to make me serene, instead of depending on God, I won’t be serene no matter how much money I have or make.

My work has been very humble, at times, and not very financially rewarding.  I definitely do it gratefully for at least part of every single day.  I can’t describe what a blessing that place and those people are to me.  For most of my working life, my job has included giving someone a drink, helping him eat, wiping his butt.

I’m reading a book that was written by one of my college professors.  I read it when I was in college but I don’t really remember it. (Except for one part which had something to do with a toilet paper tube and self-gratification.  Try going to class after reading that.)  In it a very happy butcher tells his son that all of those customers are “my people.”  Well MY people are very, very special, and I’m almost always glad to be working with them.

OK.  All that said, I have also always had the privilege of not having to completely support myself and my children.  When they were very young, and I was on my own with them, I used money I had saved to go to school.  When they were a little older and I went to work, I got some child support and lots of help with things like groceries and summer camp for the kids from their grandparents.  When they were a bit older still and I stopped getting child support and my rent was raised, I met Carole, and we moved in with her (a year later) and so I’ve been able to do my humble, low-paying work and not have to look for a better paying job to support myself and my kids.

And I do worry about tomorrow.  But not too terribly much.  I think I’m at the age where I see some of my contemporaries dying young, more and more of them, of course.  But they haven’t yet reached the age where they’re unable to provide for themselves in their old age.  My material prospects, though are probably above average, and compared to most of the rest of the world, I’m afraid I could be part of that 1%.

March 13, 2012 (this day)

Ten minutes of terror.  Afraid at work, as usual, and a big boss wants to talk to me, it’s important, he’ll be right there.  Only he wasn’t, and I waited.  Is this “it?”
Now it wasn’t an idle ten minutes.  The nature of my job is that there are things going on constantly, constantly, we work at home in order to concentrate for any period of time.  So it was busy but it also gave me a chance to touch true anxiety, fear and uncertainty, to know I was in it, to examine it and maybe one day lessen it.
I read my meditation for the work week.  I change it (weekly) and read it Monday morning and seldom remember after that.  This week it is about change.  I don’t like change.  I “hate” change, unless it is clearly a change for the better.  Even then, doing something like moving to a better building, which would be very good, is tinged with anxiety and badness, because it is “change.”  Anyway my thingy to meditate on says something along the lines of everything is changing constantly, and God made it this way, so why not use some God-given talents to embrace change, talents like visioning, imagery and imagination.  As it is with all of these sayings, I saw for the “first” time that it says “maybe” I should learn to use these tools.  Maybe I should!
So worry, fret, do some work, pace around.  Big boss arrives and his question has nothing to do with my current worry.  And then he gives me a compliment.  And then a (difficult) client comes and gives me a compliment.  And then I wrote this.  And now I’ll move on.

Wreckage of the Past

From the ancient oldtimer perspective (which is mine), I think some things have got to be let go.

I started thinking about this, thinking that because of my youth, I didn’t have tons of wreckage when I finally got sober, but upon a little more thought I decided I had enough.  Most glaringly, I carried on a relationship with someone who was married while I was drinking, and once sober, I couldn’t make direct amends.  I’ve heard of some ways people make indirect amends, but those didn’t come up in my life at that time.  Now, many years later I truly hope that living well (at least not blatantly doing the wrong thing like that) has been an amend, but the fact remains that I was guilty, I can’t directly apologize, and nothing can change that now.

Unless I purposefully set out to think about it, or unless something jars a memory, I don’t often think of that or other wreckages of my past.  It’s vitally important that I not forget because those are the things that I did while I was drinking, and if I drink again I will do much worse things.  That I believe.  So by letting go I don’t mean forgetting.  I don’t forgive myself and I don’t really punish myself.  I don’t remember often but I don’t forget completely.

I have not personally done an indirect amend, but I’ve heard it gives some people peace.  They make a charitable donation or volunteer time of in some other way try to pay back the harm they caused by doing much more good than harm in a way that’s as related as possible to the harm.  So someone who was rotten to their grandmother and cannot now be nice and helpful to her helps other old ladies in memory of her.

Wreckage of the more recent past is not so dramatic.  For me, I can mostly think of things I would have done differently with my kids, if I had a chance to do it over again, but they are still here and thankfully we’re not done yet.  But with the way my parenting goes, by the time I figure out what to do, we’re on to another phase.  I am really very lucky.

March 6, 2012 (this day)

I went to work today and fretted more about the job.  I won’t know for some time.  In the not knowing I cling to different meditations and prayers.  No coincidences in AA?  I think there are a few.  But I’m listening to some Clancy tapes in the car to and from work.  He said something about some prayer he has on his wall.  (Had?  Surely he must be dead)  Yesterday in a moment of extreme distress at work I clicked on World Prayers and spun the random prayer wheel.  I had the fleeting thought that maybe something fitting and meaningful would come up and this is what did:

My Lord God,

I have no idea where I am going
I do not see the road ahead of me.
I cannot know for certain where it will end.

Nor do I really know myself,
And the fact that I think I am following
your will does not mean that I am
actually doing so.

But I believe that the desire to please
you does in fact please you.
And I hope that I have that desire in all
that I am doing.
And I know that if I do this, you
will lead me by the right road
though I may know nothing about it.

Therefore will I trust you always
though I may seem to be lost
and in the shadow of death, I will
not fear, for you are ever with me
and you will never leave me
to face my perils alone.

So, not in the shadow of death here just yet, at least not that I know of.  But yeah, it fits.  Really I think that I can do a good job or a poor job of serving God and my fellow human beings wherever I work.  It’s just that, among other things, I know where the pencils are kept where I am, and I like it that way.
And there are the 14-year relationships I have.  I like those too.  After work today I went to a school to visit a young man who will graduate from school and come to my program.  The challenges he faces every day are more than I can imagine.
Someone I used to work with was diagnosed with cancer last May.  This time last year she was getting sick, thinking it was pneumonia or something, going to the doctor, trying a treatment.  Now after chemo-radiation-surgery it’s not gone, it may have spread.
Carole just told me that someone we know in AA lost her son in a motorcycle accident today.  I used to go to the same meeting as this woman every week, but that was years ago.  Years go by and I don’t see her.  I saw her a few years ago when she told her story at a meeting I attended.  Then some more years go by.  But I know such intimate details of her past and she knows mine, if she remembers.  It’s an odd family we make here, loosely organized, as they say.
My kittens will be one year old tomorrow.  Having them in the house surely takes my mind off of the ones who were here last year, dying.
Tomorrow I’m going to work again and, because of my crisis, I’m going to love it more than I ever have before.  But I’m also going to concentrate on the stress and tediousness of it, on the part of me that often wants to let it go and stay home and volunteer for the historical society and literacy volunteers.  Because I’m afraid I might lose it soon but I know I will lose it eventually.
So I learn more every day about living in the now.

This All Meant, Of Course (Step Twelve continued)

This all meant, of course, that we were still far off balance.  When a job still looked like a mere means of getting money rather than an opportunity for service, when the acquisition of money for financial independence looked more important than a right dependence upon God, we were still the victims of unreasonable fears.  And these were fears which make a serene and useful existence, at any financial level, quite impossible.

Rarely do I experience a “this was meant for me to read it right now” moment, but this is one.

These were fears which make a serene and useful existence, at any financial level, quite impossible.

The nature of my job is that it happens, from time to time, that I worry about losing my job.  It is regulated my many entities and the regulations and regulators fill volumes.  My job is not protected or unionized in any way.  If I am wrongly fired, the most I will get is unemployment payments.  Another aspect of the nature of my job is that I work with fragile, fragile people.  The fragility and the regulations and rules all combine to give me many opportunities every single day to do the wrong thing.  And sometimes I do the wrong thing.

So it happens every few years, I think, that I worry about losing my job.  That is happening now to me.  And as usual I won’t know for some time how this particular situation will play out.  It is not unlike waiting for tests results in fact, it’s a lot like that.  Because all the while I know that while I’m focused on this, some other thing could be conspiring right now to bring me down.

Which it hasn’t.  Not yet.  Not one time that I worried, was I in danger.  And my worries are couched in the cushiest of human circumstances that anyone ever had.  It embarrasses me to list them.  But there they are.  If I lose my job I will not lose my – health insurance – marriage – children – home – pets – lifestyle – retirement – friends – sobriety – or anything else, really, but my job.

I love my job.  I’ve been at it for almost 14 years and the experience and relationships are irreplaceable and precious.  They are also not mine forever, but only for a time, and I don’t know how much time.

I have never looked at my job as a mere means of getting money.  It’s hard work and it doesn’t pay well at all, not compared to what it asks.  It has always been an opportunity for service and sometimes that service can be quite humble, like wiping someone’s butt.  Financial independence rather than a right dependence on God?  I have more of a problem with this one.  Financial independence is important, and I don’t know that I could be serene without it.  Depending on God is great, as far as it goes, but I know that as I write, people are starving to death for a lack of food, and that they could be me.

Am I missing something there?  I know that I have far, far, far more than I need or deserve.  I’m not really afraid of starving to death because of my circumstances, I think that I won’t ever starve to death.  I don’t feel special or blessed or chosen in that way, just lucky.

But back to me and my job.  The lesson I keep trying to learn better is that these times teach me I have only today.  Today I have the job.  These times help me appreciate, during the hard times at my job, that I have it and I love it all the more for having been afraid of losing it.  That keeps happening to me, and I’m glad.  I’m acquiring more serenity and appreciation as I get older and that is all good.  And all due to the program.

And I feel like a bit of a failure that my anxiety peaks so high on these occasions.  There’s something I’m missing.  I’m not done learning yet.