Friday, April 27, 2012

Wise words from Northern Exposure

My good friend Tamara sent this quote from Dr. Joel on Northern Exposure in response to my last post:

"I'm working really hard at not working so hard."

Tamara's got my number!

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Living in a culture of unrest

My good friend Sue sent me a blog post today from a Catholic writer, Father Richard, whom she reads each day. I don't always agree with his ideas but a phrase in the post today caught me: the culture of unrest. As you may remember, my intention this year is to learn about and practice relaxation and rest. You'd think that comes naturally to a person. You just find the time. You stop doing things. And you rest.

But that is not my experience. I'm firmly entrenched in the American culture of productivity and making the most of every minute. I'm an expert at pushing myself, at fueling my life on anxiety and feeling better when I've produced a lot. I'm not conscious in the moment of trying to prove anything, but clearly I am. If nothing else, I'm proving that I'm not wasting a minute of time.

I've brought that deep grounding in the culture of unrest with me on this retreat. I have a week at the coast with friends I enjoy, a week to rest, reflect, relax, and work on my novel. I went to bed early last night and slept a long time but it hasn't refreshed my mind. I had a fabulous massage this afternoon and yet I am struggling to unwind. The truth is I've been on the work treadmill pretty nonstop for several months and it feels a bit like having race-walked on one of those airport moving sidewalks and then come abruptly to the end. Both you and your suitcase go flying and hit the ground hard.

I want to do something to fix this. Do something. Do something. And that of course is the irony.

Friday, April 13, 2012

Anxiety and addiction

Several weeks ago, at a meeting of my Women and Food group, three of us (all in recovery from various forms of addiction) got to talking about our personal associations with being thin. None of us had been thin since sobriety. One woman associated being thin with being strung out on drugs, having cancer, being with narcissistic men. Another associated it with being high. I realized as we talked that I associate it with being anxious.

I was thin for a lot of my life. I was a skinny kid, a tall and skinny teenager, a thin young woman. All that time I was anxious. Some people dream of a lost childhood when they were innocent and pure. I dream of a time as a small child when maybe, just maybe, I wasn't nervous and scared. I started eating around anxiety when I was about 9. I started drinking around it when I was 19. I did both for 24 years. Drinking took away the anxiety. So does eating.

In my still limited thinking, I can't imagine being thin and not being anxious. I don't keep the weight on to be calmer. I keep eating to be calmer. And I'm afraid to give it up.

Friday, April 6, 2012

Starting fresh

I get blog posts from Daily Om and a couple of days ago, this reminder showed up: 

We can choose to start over in this very moment; there is no need to wait for a new year or a new month or a new week.

I was happy to see this reminder. I learned this idea in the treatment center in 1989. That you can declare something over and something new beginning at any moment. In early sobriety, I had a lot of nervousness and irritability. Knowing that it was a B-vitamin deficiency caused by drinking helped intellectually but not emotionally. Sometimes I just couldn't stand being sober and alert with no buffer to my feelings or anyone else's. Several times during that month, I'd tell my boss (a very understanding woman and member of Alanon) I needed a break, and I would go home, which wasn't far, and start the day over. Literally.

I'd take my clothes off, get into bed for about 3 minutes, get up, take another shower, and get dressed and go back to work. I don't know whether it was the negative ions of the shower, the fact that I changed my clothes, that I left work for a half hour, or just taking care of myself, but I'd come back to work with a fresh attitude, soothed in some way. 

I haven't needed to do that whole routine for a long time now. I have other tools: deep breathing, silent screaming, a walk around the block, a cold glass of sparkling water. But I love the idea of a fresh start, of ending whatever isn't working and trying something new.