Acceptance, Steps

Full Boil

Life has been crazy since I last posted, and I’m not sure it has really settled down.  There has been office drama, political upset in the nation, and then I received an email yesterday from a friend to say she has early-onset dementia which will likely be diagnosed as Alzheimer’s.

Can I scream now?

This is the part of recovery that I have a hard time with:  How do I maintain serenity when everything in my world — and even inside my — is at a full boil?  It is an uphill climb to a place of acceptance of the myriad events that are out of my control.  I cannot make our president a sane and reasonable person.  I cannot fix everything that is wrong with the work culture at my office.  I cannot cure diseases.

My faith informs me that my Higher Power is with me at these times, but I find no comfort there.  I would try to cry, but I am at the office and we all know there is no crying in Marketing.

I know that I must take care of myself in order to have the strength to be an activist of any stripe, and I must take care of myself in order to be a friend to those who need me.  I know I must be gentle with myself as I curse that I’ve not been to the gym and my clothing is tight and . . . coming to the realization that when I feel powerless I also think I am ugly, useless, and impotent.

That is the difficulty of a program that emphasizes powerlessness.  The concept is valid:  It is only ego that makes me believe that worrying about something will change the outcomes, or that fixing what’s wrong in the world is something I can do on my own.  The Serenity Prayer has me asking for the serenity to accept what I cannot change, but courage to change the things I can (i.e, myself), and to have wisdom to know the difference.

So, the water is boiling, and I cannot stop it.  But I want to remember that when water boils it is in the midst of transformation, and transformation comes at a price.  In my case, the price is my ego, my lingering belief that I can change anything, the nagging feeling that it is my responsibility to make it all better for everyone, and the inability to accept the heat of the moment.

Here’s another proverb, one for which I cannot find an original reference, but one that was told to me by a Jewish friend:  “The same fire that turns metal into gold will burn clay into ashes.”  Whether I am metal or clay, I will find out in time.  To my thinking, either outcome teaches me something I need to know.


Acceptance, My Head

Up from the Gravy

nature-794126_1280One of my favorite mondegreens is “Up from the gravy, a rose!” which is originally from a Protestant hymn, “Up from the Grave, He Arose!”  It’s not the song itself that I care for, but I like the idea that from the yucky brown gravy of my days, I can rise, so I will admit that the metaphor is apt.

I’ve been having some gravy days, for certain.  Part of it is due to some kind of illness I’ve been fighting, and part of it is that I carry around a lot of emotional baggage that spills out when certain of my buttons are pushed.  For example, on Wednesday at the office I had taken a goodly size swig of soda pop, then I turned in my chair and out came this enormous belch.  I exclaimed and excused myself (because I’m sure that people in the next county heard that belch!), but a couple guys in the office kept giggling and making remarks.  I felt deeply embarrassed.  I also started feeling worse about myself as the giggling and remarks continued.  I sent an email to both guys to ask that they refrain from teasing me for things that are out of my control.  One apologized; the other replied asking why I thought they were amused. (For him, I believe it was derision.)

It was near the end of the day, so I went home.  I called my sponsor on the way, crying so miserably that I could barely see the road.  My sponsor told me that s/he has been in similar situations and had similar feelings, and that the most difficult thing is to hold two ideas in my head and heart at the same time:  (1) I feel crappy / unloved / worthless, but (2) I’m OK because I’m doing the best I can, so fuck anyone who wants to make fun of me or the situation.

Yes, that’s hard.  The feelings I have are valid.  The feelings are real.  But, even being valid and real feelings doesn’t make them true.  Just because I feel badly about myself doesn’t mean that I am a bad person.  Just because I feel embarrassed, doesn’t make me an embarrassment of a human being.  Just because it’s true that I’m obese doesn’t mean I am less worthy of respect, love, and encouragement.

It still took me more than a day to get over it. I’m glad to report that sleep is a great healer.  But, in the midst of feeling grief for the loss of dignity that was visited upon me, I was tempted to severely restrict my diet as a kind of punishment for the event.  My thinking was, “If I weren’t fat, I wouldn’t be so disgusting.”  I was tempted to become smaller, to take up less space in the world, to shrink from being in order to no longer upset anyone around me (something that comes from growing up with critical parents, and worse).

It took me more than a day to get over it, but I’m glad I have a program and a sponsor and a Higher Power to set me up again after I fall.  Everything about this program says, “Don’t harm yourself because someone else is a shit-head.”  (My paraphrase.)  Severe dieting, rigid exercise programs, struggling to be small:  All of these things are diseased responses to a world rich with ugly, muddy gravy.

So, I took some time for myself to relax, pet the dogs, work on a project.  I talked to another friend on the phone. I grieved.  I slept.  And then I got up in the morning, took a shower, put on clean clothes, and headed to the office.  Renewed.  A rose among the crud.  It hasn’t been the easiest day.  I’m still feeling a little fragile.  But the recovering part of me is strong, like the stem that holds up the rosebud.  I have broken through the crud today, and that’s worth singing about.

Truth on Tuesday

There is Nothing but Grief



Since your limbs were laid out

The stars do not shine,
The fish leap not out

In the waves.
On our meadows the dew

Does not fall in the morn,
For O’Daly is dead:

Not a flower can be born,
Not a word can be said,

Not a tree have a leaf;
Anthony, after you
There is nothing to do,

There is nothing but grief.

from Reincarnations, by James Stephens

I sang the Samuel Barber setting of this text while in college, and it has stayed with me ever since.  It is the lament in the back of my mind when I am feeling low.  If you listen to the piece on the YouTube link, you will hear the bass ostinato, “Anthony,” through the majority of the piece as the other voices cascade their mournful cries.  It reaches a crescendo in the last three lines, as if the dam of anger and tears has finally burst, but the river of pain, while an intense deluge, is ultimately brief.  What remains is the slow trickle of grief, until it finally dries up.

What grows in that dry gulley when the weeping finally ceases?  I don’t know.  I honestly don’t know.  I am still waiting for whatever that miracle of recovery finally shows itself to be.

The truth: Yesterday, in a fit of internal stress and rage, I ate several of the “mini” size KitKat bars in the break room. I think it was 7, but it might have been 11.

The truth:  I couldn’t sleep well last night, and when I was awake all I could think of were the disappointments of my life, the times when there seemed to be a seed of talent and promise, but the seed was never nourished.  In fact, it was often killed by the very people who might have helped it along.

The truth:  I had a beautiful singing voice even when I was in Jr. High school, but I was told I would never make it because I was “not pretty enough.”

The truth:  I didn’t sign up for choir until I was in my senior year of high school, and even then my mother complained that she didn’t have time to be “driving all over the country” for school events.  (My high school was only a 15 minute drive from home.)  The only time that both my parents came to hear me sing was when I sang in the spring Pops concert.  I was the only person chosen to sing a solo both nights, and my teachers and friends were so complimentary.  But I was never encouraged beyond that.  Not by my parents.  Not by my siblings.  It was basically the same shit when I was in college.  You know how some parents came to recitals and concerts and brought the kids?  At my first solo recital, one of my sisters (who was pretty much shamed into attending) asked why I didn’t sing any country & western music.  It’s a long story, but a reasonably well-known composer wrote four songs for me to sing, but my classmates made remarks that suggested I was not worthy of this attention.

The truth:  I was an emotional wreck when I was in college.  I was also socially backward.  I didn’t know how to make friends.  I didn’t know how to be me (instead of parroting the behaviors of other people who I believed were good examples).  I certainly didn’t know how to act when the attention was on me because I believed for all of my formative years that I didn’t deserve anything good.

The truth:  I’m not done grieving that shit in my life.  It was 40+ years ago, and there is nothing but grief.