I am trying to sort out my experiences and thoughts to better understand how to move forward and not stay stuck in the past.

Saturday, October 19, 2013

Serpents and Doves

When I was in my third year of college, a friend of mine got engaged and then married.  They were renting an older, cottage-like home near my parent's house.  When we were growing up we had a relationship where sometimes we were close for a few years and then we'd grow apart, then get close again, then grow apart and at that time we were close, again.  She had a very electric personality. Energy all of the time.  Time spent with her was always fun.  It was summertime, in the early evening.  I had just got home from a summer job at a local park (my favorite job of all time).  She called and wanted me to come with her to run some errands--nothing that needed me to dress up, so I showered and changed into my jeans and a t-shirt.  Pulled my hair back and sat on the porch and talked with my mom until she pulled up.  It was an easy time in my life. 

When I got into the car, as usual, she was already talking about everything.  One topic I remember was about a girl who worked with her husband.  They had been on a company picnic that weekend apparently this girl had annoyed my friend.  I remember, as she was driving, she was complaining about this girl. She felt her personality was 'weird.'  "How so?"  "She's always in the conversation."  "I'm not sure how that's bad."  "Well, she thinks she knows it all."  "Oh,"  I said, nodding my head, understanding how annoying that can be.  Me agreeing with her seemed to fuel her justification for not liking this girl because then she started in on how she looked.  "Yeah, and she never wears make up, she always has her hair in a ponytail. Always wears glasses and she never dresses up--she always wears the same thing.  Pants and a shirt."  I took a quick, mental assessment of my own appearance--no make-up, hair pulled back, my standard jeans and a t-shirt.  I remember smiling and looking over at her, "Uh, Cath...you just described the way I look right now." She quickly took her eyes off of the road to glance at me.  Then she looked me in the eyes and we both started laughing.  "Well, you look good, it looks different on her, besides, I think she even has a mustache, and you don't have that."  "Right."   I giggled and she laughed and the conversation moved to another topic.

Funny what you remember.  In fact, I hadn't thought of that conversation for a while, not until recently when I was thinking about how people judge persons with an addiction.  I was at work and there is a family who's parents are active in their addictions.  They have children that attend our school.  When we, as professionals, are at meetings talking about this family, you can see the disgust in their expressions and the lack of understanding in their words.  This isn't the only family like this.  A sad fact is that more and more children are living with one or more parent who is addicted to drugs or alcohol.  I have been to several meetings with parents who's slurred speech, and gingerly movements cause a lot of glancing around the table and then a lot of talk after the meetings.  Once or twice I've smelled alcohol on a parent, but their actions seemed normal, so the meetings progress normally. 

It's tragic.  However, my point here isn't about how tragic that is.  It is about how people can find one thing not to like about someone or a situation, and then build on it.  Like my friend did.  She didn't like how that girl acted like she 'knew it all' and when I agreed that that was annoying, she began adding other traits, that she had apparently forgiven me for or had even overlooked, because she liked me.  At these meetings with the parents who are struggling, my colleagues (some of who are counselors)  grab onto the 'addiction' and lose the person. No one seems to take into account all of the parts that are involved.  My suggestion this week was to address the elephant in the room, but no one wanted to do that.  "We can't.'  "Why?"  ""Legal issues."  "Really? What?"  "There isn't any real proof, just our suspicions."  "Hmmm."  It goes like that.  Then they start talking about the parents, again.  I did speak up a few months, ago. I spoke up, again, yesterday.  All I said was that,  "If you dehumanize the parents because they have a problem, you will never make any progress.  I don't think anyone is happy that their life has gone down this path.  Keep the children safe, but I don't think we should forget that the parents may need just as much compassion and help."  I think I heard about fifty crickets after I said that, but I felt compelled to say it, so I did. 

"All things work together for good to them that love God."  I wish this hadn't happened to my daughter, but I can see how there is good in all situations.  I am clearer on how not to jumble every personality and trait into an excuse to justify my judgment.  My view of the person is becoming clearer--as is the mess that may be around them.  I understand Matthew 10:16 better, "Behold, I send you forth as sheep in the midst of wolves: be therefore wise as serpents, and harmless as doves."  I'm wiser to the behaviors and boundaries that are needed, but more gentle to the person.

Sunday, October 13, 2013


I'm tired of this addiction. I'm tired of thinking of everything that has happened regarding the addiction. I'm tired of trying to figure things out, sort things out, and understand the reason for all of this.  I just want it all to be over.  I just want the life that I imagined for my daughter to start up, again. That simple life that you imagine day by day.  They come home from school and you aren't thinking any huge accomplishment other than, they had a good day and were positively active in life. I talked to my daughter who is struggling right now and told her that if she decided to never work, again, or just spent the rest of her life reading every book she can, or if she used the rest of her life to volunteer, that all would be so much better than what she is choosing, now.  I said that to her because I think she sets such high standards for herself that are pretty unrealistic. It's as though if she feels that she isn't going to be the best, then why try?  Sick thinking.  Anyway, I'm tired of it all. I want her to be tired of it all, too. 

I'm not mad.  Though, I think I should be regretful, I'm not.  I do get sad, but even that emotion is fading.  I don't feel weak.  On the contrary, I find that my mind is becoming clearer.  I'm not moping around in a fog, anymore.  The last time she drank, I didn't fly into a rage.  I didn't even want to be angry.  I'm tired of that, too.  Anger is exhausting. 

I have changed.  I have spent a lot of time 'talking' with God. I have made it a priority to spend at least a half and hour a day meditating on bible passages and just being quiet.  Being quiet is so important.  There is so much outer noise and the inner noise was becoming so deafening, that waking up in the morning and trying to think about the day, was becoming mentally painful. I found during the day, when I was planning a lesson or doing paperwork, that I was clenching my jaw so hard that it was starting to ache.  So I stopped.  I think that is a tentacle of involvement with an addict. You too start developing an over active mind and your own form of sick thinking. You can discern their sick thinking but your own sneaks in through the back door.  I have locked the back door.

I guess I'm writing here, today, because I don't want to write about addiction. I want to write about how much better I'm feeling even though the storm is still raging all around me.  This isn't over.  Though my daughter says that she hates this and doesn't want to drink anymore, she did.  I'm not okay with it, but I'm not enraged over it, either.  I think I just had the 'ah-ha' moment on boundaries.  I think my mental boundary just kicked in and that boundary is what is most important.  I can be physically distant from someone, but if my mental boundary isn't established, I'm still just as involved and entangled only from a distance (I went through that when she was away at school--what a nightmare that was, being so far away and yet so enmeshed in her madness at the time).  Now, she's in the same house but I'm able to distance myself.  I can love her and talk with her and be her support and still not be attached in the way where I am flailing and getting knocked around with each of her bad choices (only six years to figure that one out--better late than never, I guess).

The mental boundary is hard because the sick thinking encourages you to believe that disconnecting mentally means that you don't care.  Not true.  In fact, I think that it may be the moment that caring becomes clearer.  Like when the plane is coming down and you're in the seat and that oxygen mask pops down.  Before the mental boundaries I was trying to adjust her oxygen mask while mine bounced around above me.  Recently, I learned to reach up and grab onto my own mask and I have to tell you, those first couple of breaths are the most refreshing and freeing I've ever taken. 

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

A Winner

I am a different person than I was six (really, six?) yes, six years ago.  I know I would be a different person, anyway, we all grow and change, but with this experience, I have been on the fast track to change.  Sometimes that change felt like something I initiated.  A lot of the time that changing felt so unnatural for me that I couldn't help but fight it every step of the way.  I have analyzed myself and our situation here until everything is now starting to look unfamiliar and new all at the same time.

There are days that I am so happy and hopeful on the inside that if feels as though I'm glowing.  I really feel radiant on those days.  I'm not sure why I feel like that because the world around me hasn't really changed much...I guess it's the world within me that has been changing.  Then there are the days that I have felt so alone and lost that I can barely make it out of bed.  That every movement I make is like lifting a five hundred pound weight.  On those days, I used to almost find comfort in wrapping myself in my anger and resentment.  In fact, I think that when those days passed, I was mentally tenderly folding that 'blanket' and tucking it away, though not too far away, because it was becoming too comfortable for me to feel angry.  Almost as if I were secretly, though never actually admitting it to myself, looking forward to that angry, pouting nest I was feathering and keeping warm with that blanket of anger.  Thankfully, I have thrown out that blanket. 

I have been faithfully trying to live as 'me.'  I have taken that challenge seriously and am finding that I'm enjoying life more.  I am not a loud person or an 'in your face' person, but I have made a conscience effort to say what I'm thinking.  For instance, when we were on strike, there was a union member who felt that his fifteen minutes of power entitled him to dictate how long, when and where people walked the picket line. He followed us when we took breaks.  He was annoying and a little creepy. He was being a bully.  A lot of us complained about it to each other.  Now, I don't like confrontation but if I'm confronted, I don't have any problem speaking my mind.  In this case, I decided to do the confronting.  It was kind of funny.  We were talking about it and I said I was going to say something and my group of friends were like, "Really?  What if he says something?"  "Then I'll say something back."  I didn't yell or say anything hurtful,(okay I may have had a butterfly or two) but I just confronted him on his behavior.  I was direct, said my peace and walked way.  And the bully wouldn't even look directly at me when I was talking to him.  He also stopped following us. I felt energized.  I didn't hold back.  It was a small step that I have advanced into a comfortable walk. Ironically, I find myself calmer inside. 

Learning to be comfortable with me is oddly a new experience for me. I really never took the time to notice all of the opportunities that I let pass buy because I held back.  I am committed to not doing that anymore.  It's ironic to me that the experience of a strike--fighting for a cause--helped me to stand up for my own inner cause, and I won.