Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Serenity vs Mood Swings

Day 4:  In my morning reading there was a page about how our moods can change based on what's going on around us.  However, being so vulnerable to outside events sets me up to be a victim of things I have no power to change.  What I can do that I've learned over the years, is quiet myself by "getting out of my head and back into my body."  I do that by just noticing my breathing, how my body feels, how my feet feel on the floor/ground and by noticing what I'm thinking (and changing it to something positive).  Listening to the sounds in my environment and looking around at where I am help too.  Sometimes I can't quiet myself because my environment is so chaotic and charged with other people's upset, so I have to physically leave that space to quiet myself. 

Practicing this has taught me that I am actually reacting to my own thoughts rather than what's going on around me.  That was weird!  No matter what's going on, it's my negative thinking that causes my upset.  What I can do to get out of that victim place is to think about how I could inject something positive into the situation and do that.  Even if it has no effect, just thinking about something positive and taking action on it, returns me to a positive place.

Monday, May 30, 2011

I am powerless but not helpless

Serenity Project
Day 2 & 3:  I read the above statement in one of my morning readings today.  I love it because it sums up for me the truth about my responsibility for myself.  I came into recovery believing my problems were caused by other people and certainly other people were involved.  But the real problem was that I was never looking for the part I played in the problem.  In the last couple of days I've been practicing looking at even tiny little problems with the clear eyes of a person who is powerless but not helpless. 

I am powerless over other people, tornadoes, what my body wants to do about sleep, etc.  But I am not helpless - I do have the responsibility to respond rather than react to what happens around me.  I'm also responsible for taking care of my thoughts so that they don't run to the negative.  I've learned that believing what I think about ANYTHING is hazardous!  Usually my ego is running things in my head and my ego never wants to take responsibility for anything so tells me that someone or something else needs to shape up. 

This weekend I had a conversation with a friend about a problem she was having in a relationship and was reminded of this concept again.  She was feeling helpless about the effect the other person was having on her.  She truly didn't believe there was any solution to the problem unless the other person changed.  She had come to me for help, so I shared some ideas about ways she could take care of herself in the situation.  Since her mind was already made up that the only solution was for the other person to change, I didn't get anywhere.  I love and care about her so in the past I would have gotten emotional and tried very hard to get her to see things my way.  This time I just took care of myself by saying that I could see that she did not want to try doing anything except try to change the other person, but that I didn't know how that could be done.  Then I shut up.  I'm sure she wasn't happy, but at least I didn't get all upset myself.  I will pray for her since God is the one that has the power and be serene myself. 

Saturday, May 28, 2011


In one of Pearl Buck's autobiographies she describes how she felt after she and her family ran away from China during the revolution.  She had lived there all her life as the child of missionaries and then the wife of a missionary, but during the revolution all the Caucasians had to leave.  She and her family ran to Japan where the kind people loaned them a place to live since all they left with were the clothes they were wearing.  She said that suddenly her life was radically and enjoyably simplified. 

Each morning she rolled up their sleeping pads, made breakfast over a charcoal brazier in the one pot they had, ate, washed the pot, swept the floor and then the rest of the day was hers to do with as she wanted.  She wrote a whole chapter about the joyful freedom she felt while they were in Japan and before they began accumulating possessions again.  It was not that she didn't feel the loss of everything they had, but that the sharp pain of that loss only lasted a short time before the lightness and freedom of simplicity set in.

This story comes to mind because I have friends in the Joplin, Missouri, area who survived the big tornado there but lost pretty much everything.  I am hoping they will have the same experience of lightness and freedom of simplicity.  I've experienced this myself after the fire we had in 2000 ruined pretty much everything we had.  Of course at first I was traumatized and very sad.  But soon I felt the freedom that the lack of possessions gave me.  Nothing to dust, wash, rearrange, pick up, put away, etc.  I loved it.  I still have empty drawers in my house where I just didn't replace things.  Somehow, however, I manage to accumulate "stuff" and when I get too much of it, I just give it away so I can keep the freedom of simplicity.

Serenity Project
I've decided to reinstate the Serenity Project I started a long time ago but didn't continue.  My idea was to record my efforts to increase the serenity in my life, but I wandered away from the goal as I sometimes do.  Now that I'm going to try again to do the project,  I had the idea of starting a whole new blog for it, but in the interests of simplicity and serenity, I think I will just stick with adding it to my regular posts. 

Day 1:  The reading for today in my "Courage to Change" book was about taking responsibility for my problems instead of perceiving people, places or things outside myself as the reason for the problem and blaming and complaining.  This was one of my first lessons in recovery.  At that time I was extremely angry and saw myself as a powerless victim of others and of fate.  My dear sponsor just gently pointed out ways I could solve those problems without having to try to make other people do something different or try to force solutions over and over that were not working.

At first I thought she was trying to tell me that all my problems were my own fault, and I just got angrier because I knew that was wrong.  But she kept reassuring me that it wasn't about whose fault it was, but it was about me taking responsibility for myself and for solving my own problems.  This was not a concept I had ever heard of or been taught about so I was a slow learner and I still have to be reminded.  But the concept has given me immeasurable peace of mind and serenity.  What ever the problem is, I can ask God (and myself), what can I do about this today?  Then I can take that action - whatever it is - and forget about the problem for the day. 

A couple of examples:  During the past few years I've been plagued with sudden spells of exhaustion where I sleep many hours for several days.  It's annoying and embarrassing and other people sometimes have been upset with me because I suddenly have to cancel plans.  My best advisers have pointed out that since my body and psyche are healing from a tremendous trauma followed by the trauma of several major surgeries, that I may just need to accept my sudden need for long periods of rest.  But I've resisted, trying to regulate and anticipate so that I have some control over it.  It seemed to me that this problem was lasting longer than it should.   Finally, I arrived at acceptance - which consists of me asking God and myself - "What can I do about this today?"  The answer varies from day to day. Sometimes I try to stay up - drink some coffee, exercise or whatever - but if nothing works, I go to bed and rest - with peace of mind.  For the last couple of days, I have mostly just rested - with serenity.

Another example:  I am usually unhappy in some way or another about the care my disabled daughter receives from her caregivers.  Right now she is in pretty good health and is fairly happy.  However, much of what is supposed to be provided for her just doesn't happen.  In the past, I would have spent days and days angry and griping incessantly to anyone who would listen.  If I could do these things for her myself, I would do it, but I am unable.  I can't say that I never get upset because I frequently do.  But my upset only lasts until I remember that I'm responsible for solving my own problems.  So, I ask God and myself, "What can I do about this today?"  Usually there's something I can do.  Most recently, her caregivers were supposed to take her for a regular medical appointment, but skipped many of them.  So, I just began reminding them about the appointment on the morning of the appointment, plus going there myself from time to time.  I don't think they were crazy about these reminders, however, eventually, they began taking her to her appointments on a regular basis. Serenity!

Tuesday, May 24, 2011


I am amazed at the weather the world is dealing with.  This time the disaster was close to home and I have friends who were in the middle of it.  They and their cats are okay but their home is gone.   I grew up near where the tornado hit and my mother and grandmother died in a tornado near there in 1996.  I know how incredibly strange it feels to have everything you know just disappear in moments.  I am grateful my friends were spared and thoughtful about all the ones who were not spared.  I can't help but wonder what this all means - all the disasters.  Since the world did not come to an end on Saturday as predicted, I'm guessing it's not the end of the world yet.  However, I am realizing that for any of us our world could suddenly and unexpectedly stop.

Sunday, May 22, 2011


One of my friends has been sharing her daily gratitude list with me from time to time.  I am always inspired by what she puts on that list.  I also do a graditude list every day as part of my daily writing.  Even though my journal shows my activities, thoughts, and feelings, those gratitude lists are much more of a view of how I am each day.  When I do a progress report on myself, the quickest way to do it is to look at my gratitude lists. 

I saw something in one of my meditation books that reminded me that gratitude for things "not made with hands" might be more a part of what I look for and have gratitude for each day.  The page in the book suggested that spending time with things "not made with hands"  (made by God, the writer was saying) is an effective way to get in conscious contact with the spirit of God.  I've wondered off and on why I love spending time outside.  That might be it!

So I've decided to increase the amount of time I spend outside while the weather is lovely.  There are so many terrific places to do it in Tulsa!

Wednesday, May 18, 2011


Short verse of a poem by Mary Oliver (one of the best love poems I've ever seen):

So every day
I was surrounded by the beautiful crying forth
of the beautiful ideas of God

One of which was you.

Monday, May 16, 2011


I enjoyed the strange looking guy tell me in the Walmart parking lot that my leg was healed by the beautiful healing mother - one of the highlights of my day.  I was telling it to a friend later that day who was horrified - OMG!  He was probably mentally ill!  No telling what he might of done to you!  Etc.!  Weird that she saw it that way when I experienced it the opposite way.  Very odd.  Just showed me that perception is everything.  I was happy.  She was upset.  She would have been a lot more upset if it had happened to her. 

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Loving What Is

I'm still listening to an audio book by Byron Katie, but it's the second one now.  I finished listening to the first one during the two hours I waited for AAA to come and change my flat tire.  It was the perfect thing to be listening to while waiting because it motivated me to try to see the wait as the perfect thing to happen so that I could finish listening to the book.  AAA was extremely apologetic about the wait, but I was only mildly irritated thanks to what I was listening to.

All this is making me more aware of what actually happens around me that I could be enjoying if I were paying attention.  Today I went to the neighborhood Walmart which is basically a grocery store.  There's a guy that works there who gathers up the shopping carts.  He has dredlocks and wears some sort of clothing that appears be be Sufi or something like that.  He never looks at anybody, just goes about his business.  Today I smiled at him and immediately he came over to me and put his hand near my messed up right leg.  I think he said - the blessed mother of healing has healed your leg and so it is.  I thanked him and went in the grocery store.  That was a nice way to begin the morning.

Monday, May 09, 2011

Hissom in Stages of Being Torn Down

View of the school area

Inside what was the hospital unit where my friend's son died.

The old administration building.

The office building

Outside the gate looking in

Another gate

Hissom had its own water supply
I felt oddly calm when I expected to have some sadness.


Spring bouquets
Bec on spring break playing with Kristin's baby toys

Mary Lou and other classmates at the last gathering of the class of 59.
Kristin and I colored eggs!
Kristin found the last egg!
I was the Easter bunny this year.
Kristin in her new sweater.

Sunday, May 08, 2011

What If...?

Our books study group is trying to grasp the idea that all of our unhappiness is a result of the stories we tell ourselves.  Maybe everything is just the way it's supposed to be.  What?!! No way!  What about illness, death, people not doing what we want and doing what we don't want.  Shouldn't I be unhappy about those terrible things?  But suppose I'm not God and don't know what's best for me, anyone else, or the world?  Could it be that God is in charge instead of me?  There's a very good chance that that is a true statement.  But that would mean I would have to tell myself a different story.  For example, in our study group there were several mothers who had not heard a thing from their adult children on Mothers' Day.  Someone brought a huge number of fresh roses for all the mothers at the clubhouse, so we all went home with Mothers' Day flowers either to add to the love we'd already received or to receive the love we wished for.  Interesting.

Friday, May 06, 2011


I used to be very lonely despite the love and companionship of friends and family.  I remember thinking how weird that was.  The problem was that I hid so much of myself for fear of being judged, that I knew no one knew who I really was.  I believed if they did know, they would not love me.  As a result I knew I actually was alone. 

My friend and spiritual mother, Joanie, heard my very first 5th step where I told all my secrets, and she didn't even flinch - in fact, she yawned a few times.  Right up until her death she knew everything about me and loved me anyway.  She taught me that I will always feel alone in the world as long as I pretend to be someone other than who I am.  She taught me that there will always be people in my life who will try to shame me for my imperfections but I can just agree with the truth that I have imperfections and refuse the shame.  From that day, I've never been lonely.  There are tons of people in the world now who know everything about me and love me anyway - including me.

Wednesday, May 04, 2011

Going Against Our Natural Desires

In yesterday's meeting I got the paragraph in the 12 & 12 that talks about how hard Step 5 is - telling our secrets to another trustworthy human being.  I thought that was cool since I've been thinking about how hard that is for most everyone.  We're terrified of being judged (because we're judging ourselves).  But it is so freeing to find out that almost everyone has the same secrets. 

"This practice of admitting one's defects to another person is, of course, very ancient.  It has been validated in every century, and it characterizes the lives of all spiritually centered...people... Psychiatrists and psychologists point out the deep need every human being has for practical insight and knowledge of his own personality flaws and for a discussion of them with an understanding and trustworthy person."  Twelve Steps and Twelve Traditions.

It's interesting that it says that all people have the need to show their true selves to somebody - not just drunks and crazy people!  I wonder how much misery would be eliminated if all of us quit hiding and found out how similar we all are.

Monday, May 02, 2011


I think a lot about the mistakes we humans make in relationships because I talk to a lot of people who are having difficulties.  As I've said before, one of the first things I learned in recovery was that if I have a conflict with someone, all I have to do to solve it, 99% of the time, is figure out what my part is and change my part.  Poof!  Like magic - the conflict goes away. If one of the people in the conflict stops doing what he/she has been doing, the other person can't do what they've been doing.

The first thing that was pointed out to me was that I am actually powerless to change other people.  So, since I'm powerless anyway, I look pretty stupid demanding change.  They said that instead of complaining about what I don't like, I should ask for what I want.  Most people will just go on the defensive if you complain at them.  If you ask for what you want, they can at least think about it.  My first teacher in this said that you should only ask once.  If you bring it up again, you're trying to control.  I've never managed to shut up after asking once though.  So I've given myself permission to ask again on another day, this time really emphasizing how important it is to me.  Then I really should shut up.  I wish I could say that I've always done this, but I can't.  If I have a lot of emotion vested in getting my way, I sometimes go on for years (I hate to admit it, but it's true.) 

The second thing is that there is a God and I'm not it.  So I don't actually know how things are supposed to go.  Maybe they're supposed to be the way the other person wants it.  Of course, there are some things I'm sure about like murdering people is wrong, etc.  But I'm thinking about stuff like people who are consistently late, lie, don't do what they say they'll do, etc.  There are other rules too like how long dirty dishes can sit in the sink, etc.  Those are the kind of things I used to get upset about and that I hear about from other people.  But you know what?  Those are just opinions and different people see things a different way.  So since I'm not God, I'm way off my spiritual path when I start trying to get people to follow my rules. 

What's even worse for me is that I often refuse to take responsibility for myself by blaming other people for my problems.  If I know that a person I'm in conflict with does not want to do things my way, I'm not taking care of myself by constantly getting upset about it.  Odds are I could solve my problem by accepting that the person is just playing by their rules and doing what I need to do to take care of myself.  I used to be late at all times - not on purpose - I just couldn't gauge time.  I'm still late sometimes in spite of my best efforts.  The only way I can do better is to plan to be 30 minutes early.  However, it kind of ticks me off when other people are late.  Some people are always late (like I used to be).  If I know that in advance, why be annoyed when it happens again?  If I take responsibility for myself, I can expect them to be late and do what I need to do to take care of myself.  I carry a book with me and read while I wait.  I used to take work projects and finish them up.  If they're more than 15 minutes late to a meal in a restaurant, I order an appetizer, etc.  Guess what?  I'm not even irked when they show up. 

Life is a lot more peaceful when I change the person I actually have the power to change - me.

Sunday, May 01, 2011

Simple Abundance

Back in the last big recession when everybody was having to cut back (1995), Sarah Ban Breathnach wrote Simple Abundance, a book of daily readings for having abundance without money.  I remember buying it just because it spoke to me from the shelf at the book store, not knowing it was a big best seller.  I loved it and implemented a lot of the suggestions in it which improved my life a lot.  I got it out the other day because it's another big recession and I'm cutting back even more than I did in 1995.  I was amazed to find that I'm still doing a lot of the things she suggested. 

Today's reading was based on Thomas Gray's poem, "Elegy in a Country Churchyard" which points out that we're all going to die.  All the things we think are so important today, in the face of the truth that we're going to die and we don't know when, are not all that important.  What is important are the people in our lives and the beauty of the world.  On our death beds we're probably not going to worry that much over whether we were overweight, had a tidy house, etc., etc.  There's so much to enjoy in every day that I just overlook in my efforts to get everything done.  This idea fits in with Don Miguel Ruiz's idea of making every day a work of art.

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