Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Courage and Robin Williams

I wasn't a big fan of Robin Williams and I think Mrs. Doubtfire is one of the worst movies ever made. (Nobody could top Dustin Hoffman's transvestite Tootsie.) But I was struck by the huge difficulty many of us face with depression and anxiety and fear. I suffer from the latter two and they have wreaked considerable havoc in my life and led to a lot of addictive behaviors because they make me miserable and I'll do anything to make the misery stop.

When I was coming to the end of my active alcoholism, I didn't know it was the end. I had no hope and, what's more important, no ability to imagine a different future. I think addiction and mental illness are characterized by this lack of imagination. We can only foresee an endless stream of misery. I thought often about suicide in those days, about overdosing on some drug or other. And I could feel myself coming to an edge, a cliff of choice: stay or go. I can't explain why I chose to stay. I had no hope for I knew nothing about AA or treatment but for some reason I chose to stay.

It takes courage to stay but it also takes courage to go. I believe both are admirable.

Monday, August 18, 2014

Creating my own 31-day challenge

I'm a lover of lists and  organizational structures, and I read a blog post recently that offered a bunch of 30-day challenges for fitness or weight loss or decluttering. And I thought what if I create my own 31-day challenge (or maybe a series of them)? So here's my first one.

When fall comes, I usually get a hankering for tidiness on the inside so this should be perfect for September: my only criteria was no more than 20 minutes for each item:

1. Put photos from box into albums
2. Wash the glass in the screen doors.
3. Clean out my work basket.
4. Clean the cobwebs off the terrace.
5. Organize my tea and spice shelves.
6. Organize my canned goods so I can find stuff.
7. Do 20 minutes in my basement storage.
8.  Do 20 minutes in my basement storage.
9. Do 20 minutes in my basement storage.
10. Go through the top drawer of the file cabinet.
11. Do bottom drawer of file cabinet.
12. Tidy up my computer cords around my desk. (long-standing drainer)
13. Do three shelves of the craft closet.
14. Do other three shelves of the craft closet.
!5. Sort through and organize the contents of the freezer.
16. Go through the gift wrap.
17. Do two shelves of the office closet.
18. Do the other two shelves of the office closet.
19. Go through the greeting cards.
20. Do four kitchen drawers.
21. Under the kitchen sink.
22. Go through my scarves (be ruthless).
23. Under the bathroom sink.
24. Medicine cabinet and first aid kit.
25. Front hall closet
26. Trunk of the car and the glove compartment.
27. Do the two desk drawers.
28. Shelves over the fridge.
29. Rip out the waist of the dress I want to make into a pillow
30. Go through shoes and shoe tubs and clean closet floor.
31. Go through my jewelry and plan a give-away.

I'm very excited about doing one of these each day (in any order I feel like). What 31-day challenge would you create? Send it to me and I'll post it on the blog. Cheers!

Sunday, August 17, 2014

Fabulous smoothie

Last time I juiced, I did a final juice of heirloom tomatoes, carrots, celery, cucumber, and apple and froze it. Today I mixed the juice with banana, mango, pineapple, and ginger. A beautiful orange smoothie that was so good! Give it a try!

Saturday, August 16, 2014

Struggling with enforced leisure

One of my goals in the money program is to work less. Should be a no-brainer, right? Not so for this workaholic. I'm often most comfortable working. I do enjoy my work but I also am uneasy trying to relax. And I'm committed to changing that.

So I've promised my coach and my support group that I will not work more than 100 hours (billable) per month. Usually I just do whatever work comes my way no matter how much it is and I'm fortunate financially that that's often quite a lot. But it can get me into serious momentum around working where that's all I'm really doing (remember my confession of effort, effort, effort, effort, effort, exhaustion, rest from a recent post?).

Due to some assignments and their timing, this month started on July 29 and I reached 90 hours completed on August 13. Yes, I've been working a whole lot. So now half of the month stretches ahead and I can only work 10 more hours for pay. That's an odd and interesting quandary for me. And I have to admit I'm a little freaked out with all this leisure coming up.

Friday I spent part of the day reading and part of it working leisurely on an inventory of my art work, an ongoing project. Today I did collage with a good friend, had lunch with her, took a nap, read a while, and then started putting together my art newsletter. I had a lot of fun. Hmmmm.

Thursday, August 14, 2014

An astonishing poem from Jack Gilbert



A Brief for the Defense

Sorrow everywhere. Slaughter everywhere. If babies
are not starving someplace, they are starving
somewhere else. With flies in their nostrils.
But we enjoy our lives because that's what God wants.
Otherwise the mornings before summer dawn would not
be made so fine. The Bengal tiger would not
be fashioned so miraculously well. The poor women
at the fountain are laughing together between
the suffering they have known and the awfulness
in their future, smiling and laughing while somebody
in the village is very sick. There is laughter
every day in the terrible streets of Calcutta,
and the women laugh in the cages of Bombay.
If we deny our happiness, resist our satisfaction,
we lessen the importance of their deprivation.
We must risk delight. We can do without pleasure,
but not delight. Not enjoyment. We must have
the stubbornness to accept our gladness in the ruthless
furnace of this world. To make injustice the only
measure of our attention is to praise the Devil.
If the locomotive of the Lord runs us down,
we should give thanks that the end had magnitude.
We must admit there will be music despite everything.
We stand at the prow again of a small ship
anchored late at night in the tiny port
looking over to the sleeping island: the waterfront
is three shuttered caf├ęs and one naked light burning.
To hear the faint sound of oars in the silence as a rowboat
comes slowly out and then goes back is truly worth
all the years of sorrow that are to come.


From REFUSING HEAVEN (Knopf, 2005)

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

asking my friends to mother me

During my inner work two weeks ago, my magician/coach Denny Gregg asked me to ask some mutual women friends to mother me when next we got together. So Friday night, I was at our annual summer sleepover (dinner, cards and talk, breakfast) with three of these women and I asked them for what I needed. 15 minutes of their time collectively to mother the small child within me. And they were glad to do so.

We had a lovely dinner and got caught up with each other and played canasta and swapped books we'd brought that we'd enjoyed and about midnight I got into my pajamas and brushed my teeth and got on the bed that had been assigned to me and they all piled on and for the next 40 (!!!) minutes, they rubbed my arms and my forehead, my hands and feet, caressed my face and just held me. I wept several times from the sweet tenderness of it. I drifted off to sleep as they left the room.

It couldn't have been lovelier. What tenderness could you ask for?


Sunday, August 10, 2014

Effort and rest

I went to one of my regular AA meetings yesterday and the chairperson was celebrating her sobriety anniversary. She read a meditation from one of the official AA books, and it was about the relationship between effort and rest. That a healthy life has good effort in it and it has good rest in it, in a good balance.

Two things about this struck me. First, my relationship between the two looks more like this: effort, effort, effort, effort, effort, effort, exhaustion, rest. It doesn't look like effort and rest, effort and rest. Second, the word "effort" seems quite different to me than the word "work." Not only does work have a monetary component but it carries a deep sense of obligation. Effort encompasses more of life.

So where do I want to put my effort each day and when do I schedule my rest? Good questions.