Should Shit

by Jennifer E. 25. February 2011 15:52

"We already have everything we need. There is no need for self-improvement."
~ Pema Chödrön 


In my first few years of sobriety I believed that people with sober time who were in pain must not be "working their program right".  In my mind, I imagined that they did not have - or were not calling - a sponsor, did not "work" the Steps or were not going to enough meetings.  I especially (secretly, of course) thought this about people who relapsed.  Little did I know at the time, my judgment of others was a projection of my own fears.  And that the kind of sobriety I wanted happened to be the kind that meant I would be feeling everything as I learned to live life on life's terms.  In the beginning I believed that doing "everything right" in the 12 Step program would ensure a peaceful, pain-free life.     

So I was very hard on myself to "work the program right" by calling my sponsor and other women from meetings, "getting through" the 12 Steps, going to many meetings, serving in various ways, etc.  I'm not saying that these actions did not improve my life.  They certainly did, and do.  Without them I would not be sober today.  And newcomers to 12 Step programs often need the structure and rigidity they may experience in the beginning.  That was exactly where I was supposed to be at the time and I am grateful to all of my spiritual guides.

Fifteen years sober I realize that there is so much I still don't understand about life, myself, my body, my brain, and the world.  Aside from living the Steps in my life, psychotherapy helps me and I take medication that helps with my chronic depression and anxiety.  As the result of learning from good examples in the program, practicing new behaviors myself, and studying Buddhism over the past several years, I have learned not to be so hard on myself all of the time.  I have learned not to "beat myself up" with what I think I should (gosh I hate even typing that curse word ;) be doing, thinking or feeling.

Not too very long ago, I worked full-time in a professional position, swam at the YMCA in the mornings before work, ran in 5 and 10Ks, felt like I had dealt with a lot of "family of origin issues", sponsored several women in the program, felt like I understood a lot about myself, and was excited about life.  That was "Me" at that time.


Last year my estranged father, Alan, shot and killed himself.  I also lost one of my very best friends and the only constant parental figure I really had - my Mother-In-Law, Susan.  Those were the "biggies" of the year but there were other events (including major sinus surgery, a long rough recovery from that surgery, chronic back pain, my mother's struggle with alcoholism, and another dear friend's death) that made it the hardest year of our lives. 

Today "Me" sometimes struggles to leave the safety of her home.  I often feel overwhelmed with things in life that seldom overwhelmed me before.  I seem to be "back" to a time of "shoulding on myself" more frequently and harshly.  I should be exercising more, I should be going out and enjoying the world in this way and that, I should be able to get off of the medication I am on, I should be able be able to keep my home clean and the refrigerator stocked, I should be more in touch with friends and family...the list seems never-ending and it is all too easy to add to it.  On the days "the shoulds" become a deafening cacophony in my mind, I can become paralyzed with fear and unable to do much more than get back into the bed with a book and a kitty or two.

It was my very first sponsor that used to tell me "should shit".  So when I'm not okay with me - with who, what and where I am - I have tools today to help me, including reminding myself of the phrase "should shit".  

The fact is, I've never been here before.  In this place.  An estranged father who killed himself with a shotgun that I never would have guessed he owned, and finding out just shortly before his death that, along with major depression, he was also suffering from schizophrenia.  Losing dear Susan after developing such a close and intimate, albeit long-distance, relationship with her.  My husband, having lost his father to alcoholism several years earlier, now suddenly losing his mother, who had been sober and following her own spiritual path for 30 years, and packing up her house of 40 years. 

Thankfully, I have been learning and believe today, that for me, it's about staying with where I am.  Regardless of how incredibly painful some days can be.  It's about accepting who I am today and that I may be in a completely different place tomorrow.  And that's okay.  When I can love myself enough to let me be wherever it is I am, my mind becomes clearer and I have more peace.

At a retreat last year I heard a speaker say that, for her, every "should" she has about her life is tied to an "old idea".  One of the books that helps guide my life today states, "Some of us tried to hold on to our old ideas and the result was nil until we let go absolutely." 

Along with my husband and my friend, Michelle, Susan was among the people I counted on the most to remind me that taking it easy during a hard time is not only okay but very important, that I am okay exactly as I am, and that everything is going to be okay, no matter what.  I still think of calling her just about every day. 

I feel you with me sometimes, Susan, but I miss you terribly and I'd rather have you here in the flesh.  I am very grateful for the parts of Steve and me that came from knowing and loving you.  Thank you. ♥

 

Driving Fast

by Jennifer E. 22. February 2011 18:51

"Personal growth is not a matter of learning new information but of unlearning old limits."
~ Alan Cohen


Last week I discovered that I like to drive fast. 

Yes, two months before my 40th birthday and I am still learning new and exciting things about myself. 

I was driving west on I-10 into Houston with the windows down on a beautiful day and the realization came to me that THIS IS FUN. 

Now I can't say that I am a "keep it at 65 mph or below on the freeway (or tollway)" kind of gal but, being the conservative, law-enforcement shy driver I've always been, this was a surprising revelation.  Since then a few times on the road I have been the annoying driver who, while still using my turn signals of course, weaves in and out of traffic as fast as I can.  The driver I always bitched about.

While I have had one speeding ticket (zero convictions) in my 25 years of driving, my husband has had several and simply considers it "paying for his right to speed".  I used to give him a hard time about it.  That may not change.

Actress Ellen Muth likes to drive fast, too.  She attended the Skip Barber Racing School in Connecticut.   http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ellen_Muth 

Muth is most well known for her starring role in Showtime series, Dead Like Me (2003-04).  I recently watched these 30 episodes on Netflix, then the movie by the same title which came out about 5 years later.  I really liked the series and was sad that Dead Like Me ended after only 2 years.  The movie I could have done without. 

Anyway, as I watched the episodes progress I thought I noticed Muth becoming even thinner than her already thin self.  I also noticed that her face seemed to show the very swollen cheeks characteristic of someone who is bulimic or has struggled with bulimia.  Sometimes called "chipmunk cheeks" (I hate the name), this advanced sign of bulimia is caused when your lymph nodes, salivary glands and parotid glands swell up after a long time of bingeing and purging.  I have seen it on friends who have suffered with this disease.

First of all I need to say that I do not know Ellen Muth personally so I also do not know whether or not she is or was bulimic.  But I understand trying to have some control in my life through starving my body.  From middle school through college and beyond.  Sometime in there I also found the magic of alcohol and drugs and sick relationships.  My ways of "driving fast" at the time, I guess.

At 39, I'm not immune from the pressure of feeling "not enough" in this society.  I know the feelings.  I know the fear.  I know the anxiety.  And while today I don't drink, smoke, take (illegal) drugs, have casual sex, starve my body or eat sugary foods to try to control or escape the anxieties of every day life, I am certainly not some guru of sober peace and happiness.  Nope, I'm still human, learning as I go.  And sometimes I learn fun new things about myself.

Yep, I like to drive fast.  On all 4 little Civic cylinders.
Maybe soon I'll start looking for a place I can do it legally and with a lot more power.  Ha! Laughing

Birth of a Blog

by Jennifer E. 20. February 2011 16:55
"Every new beginning comes from some other beginning's end."
~ Seneca
(Roman Philosopher, mid-1st century AD)

My husband, Steve, has been telling me for some time that I "should blog".  Depending on my self esteem on any such day, I could hear in that anything from, "You are such a clever, quirky writer, My Love!" to "Maybe blogging would help with all these things you seem to need to talk about
over and over again." to "Why don't you do something more creative and productive with your life?!"
The latter two statements are actually the voices of two of the several committee members who live in the conference room of my brain.  The committee meets often and they sometimes have a hard time letting my highest self be the chairperson.  Stephen actually read the paragraph above before he fell asleep tonight and laughed mightily.  Then he reminded me of all of the positive things he has said to me about my writing over the years.
I am truly blessed.  I am blessed because my husband tells me the truth (he can't seem to lie even when I tell him I would rather he did).  Seriously though, I am also blessed because even with those voices, I know the truth, too.  I may never be famous*, but I think I am a good writer and, just like every human being out there, I have a story of my own and some parts of it are actually pretty interesting.  Fucked up, but interesting nonetheless.
Okay...back to the blog.  In short, I started reading some blogs written by women who were speaking straight from their hearts.  They are in recovery, too, so I related immediately and ate up their words of honesty and trust.  SCREECH....I guess I need to make it clear here that I am a recovering Adult Child of an Alcoholic, Codependent, Alcoholic, Drug Addict, and Compulsive Eater.  Whew!  (Hope I didn't lose too many of you there.)  In April 1995, initially through therapy for severe depression, I started learning about the progressive, family disease of Alcoholism and I started to attend 12 Step meetings.  In July of that year, at the age of 24, I finally hit a bottom with my drinking and drug use and got help for that, too.  I'm grateful to say that TODAY I am clean and sober, and working toward serene and happy.
So I read these blogs and started thinking that this might be a great way for me to "journal" again.  I strongly believe in the power of writing, especially for troubled souls like mine.  I have not, however, seemed to be able to pick up a pen and any of the beautiful empty journals I have purchased over the years to encourage myself.  I am also not working in a paid position nor am I going to school right now and we have no children so I am missing the sense of accomplishment I had when I held a professional position.  I have tried volunteering and going to school and my life is definitely a busy one in many ways, but I am excited to see why I feel compelled to blog.
Thinking of a name was fun.  Some of the names I considered, with some input from friends, were: 
adventuresinalife
topsyturvyjourney

courageouslyvulnerable  - I'm a crier and no longer ashamed of it.  Out of compassion, grief, gratitude, empathy, PMS, or seemingly nowhere in particular, it just comes up and I let it flow.
onehumanbeing  - Relating to the struggle to reprogram myself from the old idea that I am supposed to (see "shouldshit" below) be a human doing to be worthy of love.
shouldshit  -  This is a statement 
my sponsor in New York used to say to me when I would do the woulda/coulda/shoulda game.  I no longer believe in "shoulding myself", or anyone else for that matter, or being "should upon".
maitrispirit - I think it better to direct you to what one of my greatest teachers (Pema Ch
ödrön, pictured below) has to say about maitri than to try to explain it myself.  I believe it is the essence of my true spirit and that the most basic things that keep me away from "unconditional friendliness", or loving kindness and compassion, toward myself and others are the fear and illusions that I hold on to...

 
For more about what Pema teaches about maitri, visit the links below:
So there were several other blog names I kicked around but once I had "One Woman Being" in my head, I continued to return to it.  Thankfully, and much to my computer engineer of a husband's pleasure, all three domain names (.com, .org, and .net) were available for a very small annual purchase price.  Wahoo!
I think I'll end this post here.  I have several blog topics already that I've been thinking about getting off my chest, or just sharing because they seem fun.  So, if you're interested, stay tuned, and we will see together where this ride will take us...

*("Famous" poem)* 
I did want to share with you a poem that a Shambhala teacher read to us last weekend at a meditation retreat.  It was written by Naomi Shihab Nye. The title of the poem is "Famous" and can be found via this link:  http://www.poetryoutloud.org/poems/poem.html?id=177521 
If you have trouble with the link, let me know and I will post the poem on my site.
 

About the Author

Jennifer fancies herself a study in dichotomies and is sometimes quite surprised that no one has actually requested the honor of researching her life.  She loves to talk about herself but quite dislikes deciding what to write in a bio.

Married to her best friend and living in Cookie-Cutter Land, TX with their four sweet kitties, Jennifer started this blog as a means of chronicling her journey through a dark time in her life.  Feeling like she is coming back out into the sunlight, Jennifer doesn't know where blogging will lead, if anywhere, but is trusting in the desire she has to do so.

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