Learning From Resentment

 




imageI have been fighting a cold for several days.One thing that illness does  is force you to slow down in spite of pressing responsibilities.I feel as though I am a car that is not running on all it’s cylinders.Rest is essential and yet I feel restless.

I have been struggling with what would seem to be a toxic emotion, resentment.It bubbles underneath the surface, seething and stewing.It is different than anger in that it is internally processed.It is a sense of injustice that becomes stronger over time.

Resentment, to me, is when instead of wishing others well, you want to see them fail.You want them to ” pay ” for the harm they have caused you.You want to see them publicly shamed so you can say, ” See, they deserved it.”It is difficult, if not impossible to see people that have hurt you, cheated, stole, or lied, and and see them appear to be happy and prospering when you are struggling.

There is a degree of familiarity to it.It makes you want to ” bite the hand that feeds you “. Instead of appreciating or accepting what is, you ponder about what could have been or should have been.

Unlike anger, it can be hidden behind a smile, a kind word, or silence.We don’t always want to admit how we feel, even to ourselves.

When I sat down with my journal to write, I posed this question; what can I do?

The first thing that came to mind was to forgive.

Ah, yes.Like the saying goes, ” To err is human and to forgive is divine.” Forgiveness does not make any sense to the rational mind.In fact, my response was,” yeah, yeah, I know that already” but there is a world of difference between knowing something and the act of doing it.Once I actually sat down to do it, I felt a release.A burden was lifted and I received some insight.

For one thing, prayer and forgiveness gives you a place to vent.By being willing and making the effort to forgive, you have to acknowledge your feelings and  no one can dispute your grievance.There is no need to justify yourself or convince anyone.You are being proactive in the situation even if you never verbalize it outwardly.The choice to ” let it go ” is yours and yours alone.

There is energy locked up in resentment that can go towards fueling your future success.We don’t even realize how this drags us down and holds us back.As it says in the Lord’s Prayer, ” Forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us.” If we don’t forgive, our prayers are hindered and we stay stuck.

When we bring our offenses into the light of forgiveness, it is easier to detach from them.

I have taken steps in my life to set boundaries, communicate my needs, and honestly assess what I can and can’t do.I make a sincere effort to obey the golden rule and put myself in other peoples shoes.Believe it or not, that is still not enough.I have been burned anyway ( and so have you ).

I minimize my contact with people and situations that are potentially hurtful or toxic.This may seem like a good idea, and it is, but it is also unrealistic and inadequate.We are surrounded by wounded people who wound people.They are our friends, family, co workers, neighbors, leaders and we, sometimes, are those wounded wounders.

They are everywhere

Day to day, we are forced to interact with one another. Some would seem to be wrapped in barbed wire.They cut us and cause us to bleed.Some would seem to be sweet but they are also sticky, drawing us in effortlessly, then leaving us drained and empty.

In spite of our best efforts, we can’t completely avoid this.

Resentment is culmative.It is the result of enduring behavior, treatment, or circumstances that we perceive as unreasonable or unfair,  time after time.

At first, I though forgiveness was it, the solution, but that wasn’t all there was to it.

Here is the surprise, for me.

We use resentment as a distraction and an excuse. Facing it forces us to make changes, big changes, as a result.These will ultimately benefit us but in the meantime, it requires us to face fear, discomfort, and the unknown.We HATE that, at least in the very beginning.

This applies in our personal life but also in how we relate to the world at large.We resent our government, the media, the system, but are we willing to do anything to help change it?

Facing resentment is like a spring cleaning, shaking the dust out and cobwebs out, letting the sun shine in.It is also a day to day maintenance thing.You think of a situation, grrrr…You hear a name and your jaw is clenched.Why?? Can you let go? Forgive ?? What do I do now ?

It may be the motivation we have all been waiting for, but not looking for.

 

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The Substance Within


IMG_0753I took a snapshot recently of a gorgeous fall day.

God was showing off ,no holds barred, brilliant sunshine, soft breeze , and a touch of gold and red in the fall foliage.Simply breathtaking.There was a strange sense of peace within me; the culmination of a growth process I have been experiencing.If that sounds a little lofty, I assure you it’s not.

I have been writing and performing music, my own music, for 20 years now.These were years spent learning and growing, albeit in relative obscurity.Sometimes, let’s be honest, there is a touch of shame in this.The idea is to win the prize and get the glory, FOR REAL.At the very least,  you want people to acknowledge your work.I will admit, I have not always been the best marketer.Looking back, I can see my priorities were different than what others who were deemed successful on the music scene.I wanted to get better and create honest,and powerful work and that takes time and effort.It has been a slow process.At any rate, when I get up to perform now, it’s the culmination of years of effort that went largely unseen and unnoticed.What is amazing is that there are some nights where I can reach inside me and draw from that well of experience.This is reassuring.

Over the last few months, I am beginning to recognize a glimmer of hope, a sense of connection,a new found strength, along with the quiet assurance that I am on the right path.This is not something I can explain to anyone else, but I know it to be true.

That is not to say I do not wrestle with crippling doubt.I most certainly do.The difference is this; at any given moment I can take a step back, check in with myself, and get back on track.

Like most of us, I spend more time than I care to admit on social media.I see others posting about traveling to exotic locations, landing their dream job, completing grueling workouts, giving birth to their longed for child, or meeting the love of their life.They smile for the camera and display themselves in the best possible light (I have done the very same thing).The photos would say, “This is my life and it is all SO wonderful.I have it together, just look!”

Listen, I post on social media.I read and comment on social media.All and all, I like social media (no pun intended).I AM concerned though,  with how superficial it can sometimes be.We can alter photos and text and create the impression of a reality that doesn’t exist.Most of all, we can lose sight of the full experience of living that is greater than the sum of it’s parts.

Here is an idea; there is a large portion of our life that is lived within us.It is not visible to the public.

Are we too busy presenting ourselves to the world to take time to really know who we are, how we feel, and what we truly believe?

It’s all too easy to get wrapped up in “doing” as well as paying attention to what the rest of the world is “doing” to enjoy just ” being “?

Here’s another thought to consider.

There are some victories in our lives that don’t require applause, validation, or acknowledgement.In fact, these are the ones we can truly savor because they belong to us alone.

When I looked up the definition of substance it said,” the real physical matter of which a person or thing consists and which has a tangible, solid, presence.” This would imply that substance is always physical but I disagree.There is a substance within that is created through years of effort.Just like the roots of a tree, this substance runs deep.Roots keep you grounded when you are in the midst of turbulence.Roots also provide the stability for what is visible.

It has been almost 2 years  since I did a post called ” Inside Out ” which dealt with how our perception can determine how we experience life.Maybe what I am experiencing is just a shift in perception but, if so, that is only a part of it.

There is something inside me I feel like I can take hold of.It is like an invisible thread that runs throughout everything I do.Say what you will, it’s  real, but like the saying goes…..

I guess you had to be there.


 


 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Do You Want To Win The Game or Do You Want To Eat Chicken?



imageLast night, thanks to my dear friend Anna, I went to see the Grizzlies game at FedEx Forum.In fact, at the last minute, there was another extra ticket and my husband was able to go, too.What a welcome surprise!

It was a delight to be walking around downtown on a  chilly Saturday night with Christmas lights adorning the streets.The usual Beale Street neon and steady stream of carousers seemed especially jovial as we walked to the arena.As we cued up to get in, I noticed that the ticket said if the Grizz scored 100 points, the fans would win KFC chicken.This didn’t interest me much because I don’t eat the stuff but my husband was enthralled at the idea.I was more concerned about the Grizzlies NOT losing as it has been their pattern lately.I am not a die hard sports fan because I simply take it all too personally.Anna follows the Grizz religiously and seems relatively unphased by this.She says, ” Anne, I think you take their losses harder than I do.” She’s right. This night, however, I hoped being at the game would bring them some good luck.

When we took our seats in the stands, I quickly remembered the excitement of being at a game.So high up, it felt as though I could dive over the railing and on to the court and I love that breathless feeling.I also love the sound of the players’ shoes squeaking as they move.I settled into my chair and set my gaze on the ball.

Winning isn’t everything but it sure beats losing.In life, winning and losing isn’t always as easy to define.In sports, it is cut and dry.Anna seems to see the Grizzlies as going through a cycle of sorts.There are good seasons and bad seasons.I am not a sports analyst but I believe that to be true.It is also true in our personal lives.There is an ebb and flow.At the end of one year and the beginning of another, I am sensing that big change is inevitable but it’s taking it’s time.WHY??

I think there is a payoff to staying stuck where we are or else we would moving forward.Once we identify the problem, the challenge is fixing it.I think it’s also safe to say that there is a fair share of  ” crazy ” afoot these days.If the problem relates to someone else’s behavior ( and many times it does), it’s temping to just place blame and smugly make accusations without really doing anything to create positive change in our situation and ourselves.We need to be the change we want to see in the world and you know what?

It ain’t easy

It is easier to hold on to resentment and be satisfied with the cheap door prize of, ” I am RIGHT. You are WRONG.” instead of going for the big win, what we truly desire.

The Grizzlies managed to get a lead in the beginning of the game and hold on to it, which has been rare for them.In the past,  they would get a lead, squander it by the 4th quarter, and have us all hanging by a thread until the end of the game.Sometimes, more than a few times, this resulted in a win,which was forgiveable, but not lately.Lately it has resulted in heartbreaking loss.

The Grizzlies won last night with points to spare.My husband wanted them to make it to 100 points so we could get the chicken but I was more than satisfied with the win.I was also happy with the way they won, keeping the lead and not ripping our hearts out toward the end.A win is a win, though, and we needed it.

I would like to believe this is a symbol of hope for the New Year.For the love of God,does it have to be a last second, down to the wire, knock down drag out fight every time? Can it start strong and end strong, NOT gasping for breath at the end? I earnestly pray for this and I realize a large part of it begins with me ( sigh…)

I hope everyone reading this has a Merry Christmas and fully enjoys everything this holiday season has to offer.

Lots of Love,

Anne

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It’s All About The Frame

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Right Now Revisited

Winter is nearly over and yet the weather outside fails to reflect it.Being a northern girl, I do enjoy a little snow and cold.I think the bleakness of a winter landscape can be a call to slow down and look inward. A ” snphotoow day” can be a time of reflection.I like to bundle up, brave the sleet and snow, and take long walks.I like to think that this inner journey can help prepare us for the rebirth of spring which is,  truly, right around the corner.

I can’t remember why, but recently I decided to Google ” Being Fully Present ” in a search. It was on my mind.Yes, it was the title of a December 2013 post I did.For some reason, I needed to explore this topic once again.This post could easily be called “Being Fully Present Part II “.

I stumbled on a site by author and speaker John Kuypers.There were many great points he made about the subject.In fact,when I taught my yoga class that morning, I shared some of his writing  during the final savasana ( which I NEVER do, by the way ).There was one point he made in a piece called  “Opening To Presence ” I found especially revealing.

“We aspire to develop openness to situations as they are by practicing awareness, acceptance, and presence.We learn to relate to people and experiences without strategy or manipulation.”

Without strategy or manipulation.

That really spoke to me.I think there have been times I have had expectations of certain people or things that made me feel as though I had to prepare and protect myself.I think that this could explain a little bit about why we are NOT fully present at times.Here are some examples.

We may block out our feelings during a crisis because we need to function without breaking down.After the crisis is over,we may not have an easy time processing those feelings once we have repressed them.

We may anticipate hurtful comments or criticism so we prepare to defend ourselves.By doing so, we may not really be able to hear what the other person is saying.

We may be resistant to change and blind to the possibilities that are available to us in the present because we want things to be as they were in the past.

Sometimes I think of how our minds and hearts can be bogged down like the hard drive of a computer with too much useless data and/or viruses. Once they are deleted,we can be more aware and alert.

Coincidentally, as I looked at more posts on John Kuypers’ site, he also did a blog post on Robin Williams as I had done some months back.He argued that William’s was not “weak enough”. In other words, he was not able to accept his, as the saying goes in recovery, ” powerlessness over addiction”. As a result, he did not seek out help.This made me think  that this kind of vulnerability is not only necessary in the face of addiction but as we come to grips with life’s challenges moment to moment.Somewhere along the line, we were made to feel like we are supposed to have all the answers, look amazing, and never make a mistake.If we do “the right thing ” ( whatever that is ), everyone should agree with and applaud our efforts.On top of that, if we are hurt, angry, or disappointed for any reason we should “get over it ” because our feelings don’t really matter anyway.God forbid we admit we don’t have it together and need some assistance.

I can see now how we are stifled by experiences that  were painful and we have to take time to examine them if we want to move forward. In childhood, we may have been trapped in situations we had no control over that made us feel powerless.As an adult, we may hold on to beliefs that limit us. such as ” I am not deserving “, ” that is impossible “, or ” if I am successful, I will lose my friends and be alone “.

I think what I have come to realize since my last post on being present is not just why we should be present but why we are not present.The challenge to being present is when we see what is not working and need to make changes.It may mean letting go of a relationship, adjusting to a new way of doing things, facing fears.When we exercise, we build muscle after we exert ourselves, break down muscle fiber, and allow for repair and recovery.This causes the muscle to become stronger.It works in a similar fashion with flexibility and endurance.Even gaining balance can mean falling down several times before we can maintain it.We have to go beyond our ” edge ” to see the changes we seek.

The tricky part, in exercise and as in life, is not going too far and getting injured.Injury can be a result of doing too much too soon which can backfire costing us more time, Maybe you set an unrealistic goal that sabotaged your efforts.Perhaps you ignored what your instincts we’re telling you about someone else’s motives and trusted them when you shouldn’t have.This made you feel embarrassed and disheartened and undermined your confidence.Sometimes we get injured randomly, by no fault of our own.Regardless, injuries take time to heal and when we consider all the potential for getting hurt, we can easily justify staying “stuck”.

Last week, I made the decision to leave a job that I found very stressful.It was also, in sharp contrast,  a situation I felt comfortable and secure in.Wow, now there is something to think about.How many times can we truly identify a situation or relationship that is stressful and yet feels secure at the same time? How can that be? Maybe we have accepted or adapted to a level of stress or discomfort in order to maintain a sense of comfort or security.A trade off.There comes a time when we are willing to leave the “devil we know” to face the unknown.There, most likely, will be adversaries on our path wherever we go even if they are within ourselves.When we get to a point where we are  truly ready for change, it’s usually because we have simply had enough.

Change requires effort and action but also a shift in perception.This can happen in an instant if we are truly present.I had an opportunity to see this in “real time” yesterday.Someone made a remark that caused me to be agitated and upset.It wasn’t so much the remark as it was what was underneath it; a history of disappointments, hurtful remarks, and resentment. How can this be different? I stopped to jot down a few things.

We get angry when……

# 1 We are forced to set boundaries.We would rather if people would just ” know” our limitations and respect that.We don’t want to be the bad guy.We resent having to say no.

#2 We want to meet others expectations and we can’t.Many times this is because we have no idea what they are because they are not communicated ( or they won’t admit they have any).We are made to feel like we failed and yet we were never given a chance to succeed.

#3 When others do not meet our expectations OR they do meet our expectations in the worst possible way. For example, if it looks like a snake, it’s probably a snake.If it bites you, why are you surprised? It’s a snake.Unless you want to be bitten, avoid snakes.Sounds simple right? Even so we expect others to be what they are not and get angry at them for being themselves.

This observation, which I received as a result of being present, helped me to feel better because it helped me to acknowledge my own need for growth.Sometimes it’s them,sometimes it’s us. Most times, it’s both.We have to take some responsibility.What do I need to view differently? What are my motives here? Am I projecting my own frustration on someone or something that is not capable of being more than it is ?

The sun is out, the snow and ice are melting.Maybe it is just within me.

 

 

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Thanksgiving- Gratitude is The Reason For the Season

photoI am inspired to write a quick post about Thanksgiving as I was driving in my car yesterday and some ideas came to mind.

In my opinion, Thanksgiving is about, well, giving thanks, being grateful.Many times we strive to be better, have more, do more, etc.This is a good thing but how many times do we take time to appreciate what we already have ? I think that Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday because it isn’t super commercial and it mostly centers around preparing food and spending time with family and loved ones.Unfortunately, in recent years , this is becoming eclipsed by the Christmas season, or should I say XMAS, the “holiday season”, and/or Black Friday, the season of buying and doing, a consumer holiday.My question is this; how much more do we really need? When is enough ENOUGH.

Before this sounds like a slam on materialism, this can also apply to our lives.As I was driving, I was thinking about how hard we can be on ourselves about what we want to achieve and what we have failed to achieve.If we are not grateful for what we have already done, the improvements we have made, the steps we have taken, and the great things we already possess, how can we truly create space for more?

Forgive this analogy but it is like being constipated.

We have to let go of  old things to properly digest new things.We have to pause and be grateful.I think we have all experienced people in our lives that are never satisfied.What ever you do, they are never happy.It is like feeding into a black hole.When a setback or unexpected problem occurs they snap.I think of it as having no reserve in the tank; constantly running close to empty. They seem to be looking for an excuse to explode or stew in their disgust.It would be nice to just evict these people from our midst but they are many times people closest to us like a loved one, family member, co-worker, or employer.I can recognize this pattern in myself towards myself. That is something I can do something about.

Gratitude, looking at the things that are going well or have improved, creates the space for more.

Over the last couple months, I have taken a break from drinking alcohol.So far, so good, but it isn’t a miracle cure.There is still so much more I would like to improve.Suddenly, if by magic, I have been expecting new behavior patterns to emerge overnight.It doesn’t work that way.

Little things mean a lot and I am grateful for little things like my loving, supportive, hilarious, and provocative husband, my home ( as humble as it is ), my health, my noble and reckless animals, my understanding family members, and my creativity which I am still nurturing day by day.I am grateful for my relationship with God, my soul, my mind, and my intuition.I am grateful for the unique place where my life is now, though I clearly do not always like it or ” get it “. Most of all, I am grateful for the ability to BE grateful and recognize what I DO have, but it is definitely a work in progress.

I honestly don’t see the tide of consumerism and materialism turning anytime soon.I do see that there are those, like myself, that are taking the time to drop out on the shopping spree and tune in to the bigger picture.Holidays aren’t going anywhere but we can choose how we celebrate them.

Won’t you join us for, and in, Thanksgiving ?

 

 

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Seeing Through a Private Eye

photoFor the past couple months, off and on,  my husband and I have taken great pleasure in watching episodes of ” The Rockford Files” on Netflix.We are on season four.I imagine this was partially inspired by the recent passing of actor James Garner.Before I go any further, let me say that this post is not going to be about death.I also want to express that it is not a longing for ” the good ol’ days “, although it is no secret that I am a fan of 70’s T.V. and movies.This post is going to be about LIFE, right here, right now.

Okay, now that I have that out of the way, why do I adore this show so much? I do like the characters, the script, the fact that you can recognize that it is filmed in Los Angeles , the clever introduction with random answering machine messages, guest appearances by celebrities like Isaac Hayes, and of course, there was the car. Who could forget the Pontiac Firebird and all those exciting car chases, many of which James Garner drove in himself ? The theme song, written by Pete Carpenter and Mike Post, went on to reach # 10 on the record charts and I can remember how much I liked the bitchin guitar solo.Those things all make for vintage television.I can remember when this show was on the air( now I am showing my age).It was the first ” adult ” show that I chose to watch myself.No one else in my household seemed to be aware of it. It was on friday nights, I thought James Garner was attractive.Other than that, I can’t remember any specific episodes.

Revisiting this show as an adult has been a different kind of experience because I am more aware of what this private investigator is up against.Jim Rockford seems to bear the mark of an antihero, which was a popular theme in that era.During the late 60s , early 70s, there was the sense of people working outside, or around, the crumbling infrastructure.To be on the side of justice, you had to find a way to maintain your integrity within a rigid or corrupt system.( Sound familiar ?) Movies like Serpico, Dirty Harry, and M.A.S.H. quickly come to mind.There was an attitude at that time that said,”I am doing my job in spite of how I feel about your system.You may not like me because I don’t have the right appearance.I may bend or break a few rules but I am honest.You need me because I get the job done.” In Rockford’s case, he speaks his truth with wit and sarcasm even in tense situations.What’s more, he stops just short of being overtly rude or snarky.

I like that.

He is an ex-con(which I didn’t put together the first time around) who lives in a trailer by the beach and seems to be barely making ends meet.The simplicity of his life is enviable, though, even in the shadow of the wealthy and powerful.He is a man living on his own terms.He  maintains a close relationship with his father and has a few loyal, yet some times shifty, friends. For such an charismatic guy,his relationships with women seem spotty.Well, I guess that comes with the territiory.In spite of his faults, you would feel secure turning to him in a jam.I can identify with this man, even as a woman.He pays the price for his freedom.He is constantly under the scrutiny of the police, working with unreasonable, and sometimes dishonest clients,and having to face life threatening situations on regular basis.There is no handbook and sometimes he seems to be making it up as he goes along.Being resourceful lends itself, at times, to slightly unethical behavior as he is not above impersonating someone or breaking and entering  to get information for his case.

I may not be in mortal danger, staring down the barrel of a gun, but I know what it is like to have to live moment to moment.I know what it is like to have to believe in yourself and your instincts when there doesn’t seem to be a clear direction.I know what it’s like have to maintain a sense of self, a certain dignity,in the company of those who may see you as worthless.I know what it is to have to grit your teeth, smile, and ” shake it off”.I just wish I could do it with more of Jim Rockford’s charm and style.I also wish I could be as scrappy in a fist fight, fending off thugs and intruders so effortlessly.

Well yeah, it is television after all.In this case, we really DO want to see the good guy win because he is not always good and we identify with that.That kind of realism makes some of the more implausible things forgiveable.

I can remember my mother watching soap operas in the afternoon to wind down as she remarked,”These people have beautiful homes, clothes,  important jobs, take vacations, but where do they get it all? You never see them working.” She found amusement in this and so did I. Today, this seems to be the standard  in most television, movies, and music.I wrote about this is in a previous post, ” Art and Life “. People many times look to movies and television as an escape from their everyday lives.That is understandable.A little sweetness, a happy ending, some great clothes, and an exotic location and I am on board but please give me a little grit, some peppery remarks, and/or a certain irreverent attitude that I can bring to mind as I face my day.It helps me to feel less alone in the world.

I had an outspoken friend when I was 18 who told me, ” People are always saying’ be yourself, be yourself ‘ and so I was and nobody liked me”.

I will never forget that.

There is a drawback to being our most authentic selves.Sometimes people don’t like us.The truth is, we can not make people like us no matter what we do anyway.We may as well be ourselves because, as Oscar Wilde said, “Everyone else is taken.”

I said in the beginning that this was not going to be about the ” good ol’ days”.I am sure there were people watching 70’s T.V. wishing it was still 77 Sunset Strip or Leave it to Beaver.Times change and that is not a bad thing.In some ways, our world has improved.There is a saying,” The more things change, the more they stay the same.” We are in a different time but I think the world still needs antiheroes.We still look to those who inspire us to be all we can be while, at the same time, help us to recognize and accept who we are and what our unique contributions are, too.

Whenever I write these posts, I come to some kind of a conclusion in the process.Here is my latest; watching The Rockford Files is like a visit with an old friend.In my case, that “old friend ” is me.It’s the part of me that speaks her mind, longs for adventure, and cherishes individuality and freedom.When I first saw this show, I was young enough to to see this in myself and nurture it.Now that I am older, I can use a reminder now and again.This would seem especially true when my back is against the wall and both ” cops” and ” robbers” are breathing down my neck.I have more than my share of days when I ask myself,”How did I get here?”

After a brief “visit”, it becomes crystal clear.I can hold my head a little higher.

Being yourself is a dirty job but hell, somebody has got to do it.

Thanks,Jim

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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30 Days and “Counting”

photoI decided a month ago to stop drinking alcohol for 3 months.How did this come about? Well let me start this story at the very beginning as it was part of a process.

One thing worth mentioning is that there is a wealth of information about everyday life that it is easy to forget if it is not documented.

I have been keeping journals consistently for over a decade now.I had been keeping them longer than that,  off and on, from the time I was in my teens.In recent years, I was inspired to keep a journal by the book “The Artist’s Way”  by Julia Cameron.The book advises the reader to journal three pages of stream of consciousness,  long hand writing first thing in the morning.They are referred to as “Morning Pages” although, for me, they haven’t always taken place in the morning.I haven’t even done them every day, truth be told.I have managed to make them a consistent part of my life, though,  and can’t really imagine my life without them.

In May, I was having some car repairs done.( yes, again ).I took some time to sit by the river downtown while the car was being worked on.It was a lovely spring day that was sunny and breezy.I sat on a bench, pen and notebook in hand, to pray for wisdom and listen.I asked about finances somewhere along the line.I got the intuitive sense that if I gave up drinking alcohol, it would help my finances.This came to me as  something more than just not spending money on alcohol.It felt more like a kind of shift, a lifestyle change.Hmmm.

It didn’t feel restrictive or heavy.It felt more like a different way of doing things.

Let me say this, in my heart of hearts, I do not believe I am an alcoholic.If I am, then it will come out sooner or later.I do not believe I am in denial.I have struggled with the “lifestyle” of drinking.Playing music in bars, working in restaurants, and being married to someone who is in a similar position has set the stage for this.I don’t think that this is uncommon.I also don’t look at booze as ” bad ” so to speak.I compare my situation to what happens when you go to the doctor to get an x-ray.It doesn’t necessarily pose a threat to the patient, but the technician steps out of the room because they are doing this all the time.I am in an enviroment that puts me at risk.

After I received this guidance, it took some time for me to actually try it out in earnest and take it at face value.

Several months ago, I did something called “counting” which was inspired by a book called “Money Drunk,Money Sober”which Julia Cameron co-authored with Mark Bryan.The practice of counting is writing down ever penny you spend, what you spend it on , as well as every penny you earn .After a month, you begin to get a very clear picture of what you have been doing with your money.I did it during June and July for 4 weeks.This was not earth shattering for me but it was very revealing.For one thing, I earned more than I thought and I spent more than I thought.What did I spend it on? Well, the number one thing, besides bills like mortgage and utilities, was food.When I say food, I mean groceries, the stuff you prepare at home.The second was alcohol.Now, I didn’t separate going out alcohol from staying home alcohol.Because I was I was doing this exercise, I was more mindful of what I was spending out.It was still more than I expected.I wasn’t spending as much money on gas for the car, clothes, dinners out and/ or entertainment.In fact, the money spent on alcohol was rivaled what I spent om food.Whoa.

Where does this leave things? Well, food is a tough one because I need to eat.I buy the food for my household ( my husband and I ) and I do enjoy cooking and eating healthy food.Food is not only about sustenance for me.It’s also about connection and creativity.Now the question is, is there another way to find that? Have I been squandering my creativity in one place? I work with food and drink and have for many years.I also connect with friends in this way. Actually, from a caloric point of view, alcohol consumption can be eye opening. One leisurely Sunday, I took note of what I drank over the course of a day and the calories they contained.   900 Calories!!    I got a good scare, that’s for sure. After that, I decided to hop on the wagon for 30 days.It was a good thing, at the time, but it only seemed to scratch the surface.

As I pondered abstaining from alcohol, I looked at different articles on the internet written about how sobering up changed their lives.I am not talking about the standard AA ” bottom out” kind of experience but more of a health and wellness variety.In other words, did you notice physical changes, better sleep, more productivity?.Let me take this time to say, I have nothing against Alcoholics Anonymous.It is an excellent program that has helped many lives the world over.I just didn’t see it as a fit for me.

As a result of my search, I stumbled upon Hello Sunday Morning, an online support group more focused on the idea of, as they put it, ” changing our relationship with alcohol”.This seemed to make sense to me so I decided to check it out.It centers around the concept of taking a voluntary break from drinking for a period of time, like 3 months or a year,writing about your experience and connecting with others doing the same thing.I decided to give it a try for 3 months.The people involved in this seemed to be predominately from Australia and the UK.Some are heavy drinkers looking to quit for good.Others, like myself, are doing it to experience a new way of life and don’t see themselves as “Tee total” forever.May I also mention that I am not recieving any endorsement from this group.It is just something I am doing.

It dawned on me how all these years I have been looking for something like this.It’s one thing to be in serious enough shape to consider rehab but what about the rest of us? How about those who just want to drink less? I know that this can be the subject of great debate. There are some who don’t believe there is a such thing as moderate drinking, All or nothing seems to be the norm.In sharp contrast to this, I see myself as being a part of the population whose needs are not being addressed.

It has been 30 days since I have had alcohol and I feel pretty good I am, in fact, sleeping better, saving money, and discovering how to socialize without it.I have been recording my spending and earning, though nor quite as diligently as before.The most troubling expense for me, aside from alcohol, would be groceries and that seems to be roughly where it had been before.Although there is always room for improvement,I can live with that for now.

The hardest thing about this process is looking at all the things I would like to accomplish and knowing that there is only so much I can do in each day.In order to be at my best, I have to take time for me. When I don’t take time, or have time, for the things I enjoy, alcohol serves as a quick fix, or makeshift alternative.I now seeking out the things I enjoy that don’t involve alcohol.It could be a good book, dancing, writing, visiting with a good friend, or finishing a long postponed project.My creative side needs more attention.That is becoming more and more obvious.

I am only  1/3 of the way finished with this journey but I feel as though there is still so much to learn.I am not in a HUGE hurry to get there but, yes, I am looking forward to having a glass of wine again, no joke. Time goes by so fast and I want to have something to show for the 3 months.For now, I am open to all the richness that this experience has to give.

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Drinking the Kool Aid

photoThis has been a subject I have wanted to post about for months.

 

When people use the phrase” Drinking the Kool Aid ” , they are making a reference to the Jim Jones cult suicides that took place in Guyana in 1978 where followers knowingly drank poisoned Kool Aid. This tragically resulted in the death of over 900 people.I can vaguely remember this incident on the news.For me, being pretty young, it remains hazy along with Watergate, Patti Hearst,and the gas crisis.I can remember the atmosphere of what seemed to be tumultuous times.I can remember my mother saying how Nixon was a  “crook” ( she was a regestered Republican by the way) and how Patti Hearst was ” brainwashed” into her invovement with a bank robbery.As a kid, looking up to my parents and other adults, it made me feel like the world had gone crazy.I guess it had and still is.

Nowadays, when someone talks about drinking the Kool Aid, it’s means stepping over a line into some kind of collective insanity.It means being baptized, if you will, into a way of perceiving the unreasonable as completely acceptable.It means taking the plunge into “the new normal”.

After mentioning to a friend and co- worker about my facination with the Jim Jones incident, he turned me on to the Source Family Documentary.I didn’t know anything about this early 70’s California group so I was eager to check it out.With this bunch, there were no mass murders or heavy drugs.They preached the gospel of health food, yoga, and self awareness with some and marijuana sexual impropriety thrown in.I am sure people did feel disillusioned by it all but it lacked the gore and horror of the Manson Family, Waco, or Guyana.

It’s funny how when you mention something cult related, many act like, “Pfff, stupid people.I would never do anything like that.” It’s relatively rare to find anyone who has been closely involved in cult activity.The major consensus is that no one would ever find themselves in such a compromising situation unless they were completely guileless and naive.

Think again.

Something that really stuck in my mind about the Jim Jones,” People’s Temple ” was that they originally had an air of legitimacy.For one thing, they were very racially integrated, which was huge at that time.They were politically active and they were speaking to people’s concerns.Remember, this was during and right after the war in Vietnam, assasinations, and major social upheaval racially, sexually, and socially.

The Source Family was a outgrowth of Jim Baker’s( note Baker, not Bakker) hugely successful Source Family Restaurant on the Sunset Strip.Let’s face it, if anything speaks loudly, it’s money.This restaurant hosted many celebrities and was featured in restaurant trade magazines.

So where did it all go wrong?

I don’t know.Maybe abuse of power, egos, lack of integrity, any number of things.What really spoke to me, about the Jim Jones thing in particular, was how committed people in the group were to one another.It wasn’t all about the leader.This was their community.These were friends who may have had similar experiences, beliefs, goals, and ideas.They didn’t want to let their friends down.

Think about that.

Although being involved in bonafide cult activity may seem very remote to most of us, I believe we have all been involved in a group of well meaning individuals that have exhibited similar behavior.Think of the family that looks the other way at a loved one’s addiction and creates a whole support system and coping mechanism around that.The boss who bullies their employees by making unreasonable demands that everyone complies with in order to keep the job.Of course we see this in religious institutions but also in street gangs and organized crime.We even see it in friendships and intimate relationships.”Drinking the Kool Aid” means you are doing something that no one would even consider, even yourself, if they weren’t as closely involved as you are now.

Even if cult involvement seems a little off your radar,I am sure unhealthy behavior is something you are familiar with.In fact, I would even go so far as to say that it is commonplace.What constitutes unhealthy behavior anyway?

Here are a couple thoughts to ponder.Are you involved with people who are very insular and rarely interact outside their group? Can you introduce new ideas? Are they threatened by your personal growth? Do they allow for disagreement and/or dissent? Can you voice your concerns openly without fear of ridicule, intimidation, or shame? Can you choose to reduce contact with the individual or group harmoniously or will that create an incident?

One thing that bears mentioning is that group energy is very powerful.Unity and solidarity are wonderful things and we can benefit from being part of a group, community, partnership, or relationship.It is a means of protection and support.Not every family is 100% functional ( I wonder if there is such a thing ), not every job is a warm jovial place where are input is welcomed and applauded, and not every relationship is without a fear, jealousy, or suspition.We can’t be expected to ditch our family, job, and primary relationships just because they fail to meet our every expectation. Our government has problems but are we ready to overthrow it? Drinking the Kool Aid is a different matter,though.

When you ” drink the Kool Aid” so to speak, you have already shut down the internal warning system we all have that told you things were going terribly wrong.You already gave up the fight and stopped asking questions.You convinced yourself that you no longer had any choice.When the few survivors of the Guyana massacre were interviewed, they viewed it as more of a murder than suicide.Once the followers were that isolated and far from home,they were trapped.The question is, then, when did the real loss of power begin?

During times of uncertainty, people are more likely to give up some personal freedoms in exchange for a sense of security.This is nothing new.We see it today with the rise of radical religious fundamentalist groups.We hear it echoed on angry talk radio.They call for a quick solution to the ” problem” meanwhile the problem is us.I am always suspicious when I hear leadership talk in terms of ” us and them” as if the “them” are people we have nothing in common with. ” They ” are only vaguely human.

In Julia Cameron’s book, “The Artist’s Way” she describes something closer to our everyday experience.She uses the term “crazymakers” to describe people who are master manipulators that create chaos and distraction in our lives that cause us to lose focus on our own pursuits.These are the one’s that call you for help when you are about to go on an important job interview or much needed vacation.They seem to have absolutely no regard for your valuable time and their timing seems impeccable.With crazymakers it is necessary and possible to set boundaries.It may take some re conditioning on our part and that responsibility lies with us.

You may ask,” why are you writing this? what does this mean to me?” I suppose this is a dilemma that I face daily.Crazymakers, so to speak, seem to be a mainstay in my life.I soon as I seperate from one there seems to be another waiting in the wings to take their place.Crazy people can be charismatic and inspiring as well as frustrating.If that were not the case, people would not follow them.We all have had that friend or loved one that was fun to be around and, perhaps, pushed us to do and be more than we thought was possible.Then again, they left us exhausted and sometimes angry.Today, I am more in touch with my own needs and personal convictions and have a easier time recognizing what my limitations are.I know when to say no.

Is it wrong to want to break with the rest of the world’s ideas in pursuit of a different kind of society? I don’t think so.I think there has to be a ponit you ask yourself,” is this what I signed up for?” If it goes against your core ideals and beliefs, it’s time to bow out while you still are in a position to do so.

In addition to hearing the term,” drinking the Kool Aid”, I also have heard the term,” I didn’t drink the Kool Aid “.

Translation :  I saw what was going on but I didn’t buy into it.

We can’t always stop the insanity  going on around us but we don’t have to invest ourselves in it.We can’t always prevent others from being beguiled by a magnetic, sometimes maniacal person or being burned as a result of a unsolvable conflict but we can protect ourselves.We can be a witness.We can be the voice of sanity.

So don’t pick up the poison, no matter what form it takes.It may be easier now than later.

 

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No Sense Makes Sense

photoIn the wake of Robin Williams suicide, I am compelled to contribute my thoughts.Yeah,  I am sure by now your a little tired of reading about this subject.That’s alright, I am too but I need to write this anyway.

Williams was a true genius.He could transition from mapcap lunacy to thoughtful insight at the drop of a hat.His comedy had a rare quality of letting the viewer peek behind the curtain occasionally to see the softer, sometimes sadder side and it was believable. He revealed the pain behind the playfulness, the tears behind the laughter.

Watching an recent interview, I was astonished by how profoundly sane this man sounded.Even though he would interject with various characters, voices, and facial expressions, he sounded intelligent and lucid.When he was asked about the on going war in Iraq, he appeared to be sincerely concerned and yet exasperated by the whole situation.We live in a world where we  have been doing the same things over and over again, for centuries, expecting a different result. That is crazy. Robin Williams. like many comedians, was a court jester who used his humor to make us laugh and because of this, he had a license to address uncomfortable truths.

What a lightning rod he was!!

Comedy is most effective when it serves as an antidote to the pain of life.Strangely enough, I had a dream the other night where I was at a party with some people I work with.I looked out the window into  the street and witnessed a breathtaking bolt of lightning hit the ground and then catch fire.When I woke up, I looked at a dream dictionary online to find the meaning.One source said that lightning represents a sudden insight and awakening and/ or a shocking turn of events beyond our control.Lightning is powerful and unpredictable. Imagine being a sensitive person who is constantly bombarded with stimulus from their environment.It can be uplifting at times but also draining.Powerful energy like that needs a place to land.It has to be grounded.A lightning rod is grounded to the earth. I am sensitive myself and I am constantly being reminded how important it is to stay grounded.For me, this means staying connected physically to the earth by spending time outdoors, being exposed to sunlight and moonlight, breathing in the freshest air possible, and even walking around in bare feet when as I can.This is an essential piece of the puzzle that is missing in our high tech society.To the modern world, this seems so simple, how could it possibly make a difference? It doesn’t make sense.Well, it doesn’t have to make sense as long as it works.

It doesn’t make sense for someone like Robin Williams to take his own life.He had millions of fans worldwide who adored him.He had colleagues who respected and admired him.He had family members that probably depended on him.How could this happen? As someone who has, and still does struggle with depression and suicidal thoughts, I know what it is to be in a similar position.To the outside world, it doesnt make sense.Nevertheless, when you are in a place of despair, the only thing that make sense, truly makes sense,  is ending it. Period. Think about the nature of addiction.To an addict, it makes perfect sense to spend their last dollar on a cocaine binge.Recently one of my dear, recovering friends shared a story about  partying with another guy one night who said he couldn’t buy more drugs because his rent was due the next day.To that my friend replied, ” Rent??? Rent is tomorrow!! “.We both roared with laughter at the telling of this.It revealed a sobering fact. When you are an addict, the addiction is doing the talking.The addiction is calling the shots.You can’t reason with an addiction.Once you are in the throws of such a thing, you are completely powerless and it’s only the grace of God that will keep you alive.

There are two things that infuriate me about the way society deals with depression.The first is that we should never be depressed.We should never be sad or even angry.Actually, why even have feelings or emotions at all? It just gets in the way.It’s a major inconvieniece.Snap out of it.

The truth is, in my opinion, it’s okay to feel sad.It’s essential to allow yourself to grieve a loss or acknowledge pain,  disappointment, or resentment.Sad is not bad.Bitter is as important as salty, sweet, spicy, and sour.When working together, all these components create rich flavor.We live in a time when people crave more and more sugar. (Are we seeing a pattern here?) We want a quick fix and a happy ending to every story.Life doesn’t always happen that way.In fact, experiencing a time of disillusionment and despair can be like a rite of passage.A “dark night of the soul”,  if you will, that can lead to a place of more meaning, gratitude, and purpose.Elizabeth Lesser’s book , “Broken Open”  does a fine job of arguing this point. She shares powerful examples, some deeply personal, of failure, tragedy , and loss and the gifts they can bring if we are open to them. Still,as a society, we don’t always have the patience to endure that part of the process.

Here is the second.

I realize that severe depression is a little different.I get it.It can be debilitating.What then? Reaching out to a friend,talking to a councilor,or attending a support group can be a huge help.Medication may be recommended in some cases.Okay, got it, but this is what makes me angry.

What about food? No one ever seems to ask, “What are you eating?

Your brain, my brain, everyone’s brain needs quality food to function.When depressed, some reach for unhealthy foods while others stop eating all together.Unfortunately, this is when we need nutrients the most.I realize that there are various books on this subject and I am not completely alone in this matter but by and large, this viewpoint is ignored.I can’t tell you how many times I’ve encountered a troubled soul whose diet was abysmal at best.I am talking about loads of sugar, processed food, caffeine,you name it.And  what about water? Are you kidding? Not everyone is quite as reckless.There are those who eat fairly well but are they eating what they should for their specific needs? Are they getting enough Omega 3 fatty acids? B vitamins? Do they have a food allergy?.It is astonishing what havoc an allergic reaction, for instance, can create in the body.Something so tiny and insignificant as a nut or mold spores can create such a complex immune response in one person while it does nothing to another.I, personally, can eat peanuts and shellfish all day long without incident while for someone else,  it is life threatening.I used to think I had to avoid all dairy products until I realized it was lactose that was causing me trouble and not casein.I can tolerate some cheeses and not others.Go figure.For me, there has been a lot of trial and error.Look, I am not a nutritionist so I can’t diagnose anyone, not even myself, but I have learned from my personal experience how food can affect mood.Unfortunately, in the case of depression, this is usually a last resort.

It doesn’t make sense does it?

I will tell you what also doesn’t make sense, the far reaching impact of a seemingly tiny act of kindness.A kind word of encouragement, a phone call, a hug, or even a simple, “I hear you” at a time when no one seems to be listening can mean the world to someone who desperately needs it.It can also be the difference between life and death.

Another thing that bothers me, while I am on the subject, is how hard performers and artists work to maintain their level of excellence and how little it is appreciated.For someone like Robin Williams, it appeared effortless but I am sure it wasn’t.It takes years and years of practice, experimenting, rejection, revision, as well as countless hours pacing the floor waiting for the phone to ring.This is something even the greats strugggle with. Uncertainty is something that even a talent as famous and sucessful as Robin Williams had to grapple with.

Again,it doesn’t make sense.

There is one thing that is beginning to make sense to me, as I write is this.

I have been guilty of wanting to understand everything.I want guarantees.I want to know how, exactly, it’s all going to work out before I make a move.This is poison.It paralyzes you.When you analyze you paralyze.

Insight doesn’t always come about by searching or reasoning.It can be like a bolt of lightnining.

Thanks,Robin.Thanks for all the laughter.Thanks for all the hard work.Thanks for showing us earthlings that you are more human than we thought.Most of all thanks for giving me the ability stop being so damn hard on myself (at least for today) and accept that I am not alone.Even the brightest stars fight the same fears and demons.I wish you could have come out of the other side of this despair without taking your life but maybe we wouldn’t have paid attention.Again, No Sense Makes Sense.

I love you.

Rest in Peace.

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