Sunday, October 30, 2011

Progress not Perfection

I've learned that I'm a slow learner.  Making any change is a huge challenge for me.  Thanks to recovery, though, my whole attitude toward change has matured; I used to try to change in accordance with some arbitrary rules I learned somewhere.  I was trying hard to be "a good person" so that I could feel all right about myself.  I was pretty much a complete failure at that.  I couldn't possibly live up to what I thought I should be.  So eventually I just gave up on myself.  In recovery, though, I learned that change takes place with the help of a Higher Power and it occurs in the here and now, one day at a time.  After some period of time, I can look back and see that I have changed - not perfectly but definitely for the better. 

I've also learned that arbitrary rules that I learned somewhere are not good guides to change.  Soul searching for how to live my life, meditations on kindness, reading other people's ideas and adopting the ones that fit with kindness, are better guides for me.  I read once that the Dalai Lama's religion was kindness and my sense of it is that all religions have that as a central tenet.  In recovery there's a saying - when deciding what to say in any situation, ask yourself, "Is it necessary?  Is it constructive?  Is it kind?" 

A big part of kindness is learning to be kind to myself, so "progress not perfection" is what I apply to my efforts to live the life I want to live.  For example, I have tried many times to establish a meditation practice that is truly a meditation practice.  I go along for awhile and then forget the whole thing.  Now that my life is not so busy, I'm working at this again.  I'm pretty good now with the morning meditation, but I forget to do the evening one.  Also, I do not yet have anything like a quiet mind, so I've adopted what I think is a Buddhist meditation where I focus on my breathing, saying to myself as I breathe in, "May I be free from suffering" and as I breathe out, "May I be at peace."  (This is not a prayer.  This is me giving myself permission to be free of suffering and to be at peace.)  Boy does my mind really hate that.  It wants to think about my to do list, what I ought to do about some problem, etc. etc. etc.  It could be discouraging if I were trying for perfection.  Luckily I'm not - the goal is progress and I'm seeing some of that as I persist every day.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Ignoring Problems

Ignoring problems has an upside and a downside.  The downside is, of course, that ignoring problems doesn't make them go away.  Problem solving is a skill that can be learned.  It's work.  It's my responsibility to learn it and not depend on other people to solve my problems.  It's good, though, to have the humility to ask people who know to give me the information I need to solve them.  I wasn't born knowing how to solve problems, and I will never stop needing information to do a good job at it.

The upside of ignoring problems is recognizing when I've done all I can, and it's time to stop.  It's the part in the Serenity Prayer when I receive the wisdom to know I've got a problem that I need to ignore (accept) because it's something I can't change - at least right now.  It's the opposite of doing the same thing over and over expecting different results.  I'm getting better and better at this kind of ignoring of problems.  I've noticed that sometimes what I thought was a problem, isn't actually a problem.  This is particularly true when I think I need to change someone else.  It may well be that everything is exactly the way it's supposed to be.

Monday, October 10, 2011

Why I Shop at a Ridiculously Expensive Grocery Store

  • The produce is fresher and lasts longer.
  • The produce doesn't have any pesticides on it.
  • The meat doesn't have growth hormones.
  • The milk doesn't have growth hormones
  • The cheese doesn't have growth hormones
  • The cows, chickens, etc. have not been tortured their whole lives.
  • The eggs are from vegetarian chickens (they didn't eat other chickens) so the eggs are lower in cholesterol.
  • The cows didn't eat other cows which means there's less chance of disease.
  • By spending my money there, help the farmers make money by growing clean produce and caring for healthy cows, chickens, etc.  I hope that when other food producers notice it pays to farm that way, they'll start doing it too.
  • They have a lot of stuff I really like but can't get anywhere else - like canned lentils.
  • Their flowers last twice as long but don't cost any more.

Sunday, October 09, 2011

Unsolved Problems

There's something to be said for living into the 7th decade.  I'm a slow learner but I eventually catch on to some stuff.  For example, unsolved problems seem to plague us humans for long, long, long period of time.  I've decided that if I'm uncomfortable about something for more than 24 hours it's time to do something.  Usually that something is to talk to somebody about it.  The inside of my own head is not a safe place to be with a problem.  I usually just look for someone or something to blame.  Sometimes it's me, but mostly not.

Some problems can be solved; some can't; some can be solved at a later time.  However, I certainly have to start with accepting reality.  My physical problems only have temporary solutions at this point.  I've worked really hard at learning what causes them and what will help.  I know that exercise (the right kind, guided by people who know what they're doing), good nutrition (guided by people who know what they're doing), yoga and meditation, plenty of sleep, avoiding stress and food that promotes inflammation, and a positive frame of mind are all things that help.  So every day I do my best to do what's needed to take care of myself. 

I've learned to let go of my physical problems when I've done what I can to take care of myself, and then I just get on with my life.  Thinking about them all day or griping doesn't help at all.  In fact I really think it makes me worse.  I avoid pills too.  Pain meds just mask the problems and don't solve anything, plus there are gross side effects.  I just avoid them, not completely refuse them.  There are times when I've done everything else I can and it's time to use them.  But I'm aware of their dangers. 

If something new comes up, I make a quick trip to a good doctor and try to figure out what's up and whether there's something that can be done.  Sometimes it's as simple as using crutches when I have to be on my feet for several hours.  Using crutches keeps some of the weight off my hip and knee so they don't become inflamed and sore.  Simple solution.  That solution allowed me to spend several hours seeing the sights at the state fair without having a lot of pain.

In my past life I would have tried a couple of things and then just given up, assuming that I was just doomed.  Sometimes there are no obvious solutions and I have to surrender to reality and learn to accept and cope, but that strategy is actually a solution. 

Saturday, October 08, 2011


My latest bouquet.
Midway at the fair

The cops at the fair.  Little pink piggies on top.

Better view of the piggies.
Tony at the fair
My dear neighbors have already decorated for Halloween

Bridget with her purse and Christine her caregiver
Julie, Bridget's program coordinator is checking the books.

Two of the paintings on the wall at Cafe Samana - a great place to eat if you're into healthy food.
Eric here for a visit on his way to his latest adventure.

Monday, October 03, 2011

Short Answers

I've probably sat in thousands of meetings with a guy that likes to make the principles of the program into "one-liners."  I love it because I am able to remember the principles that way.  For example: "There's only one money problem - not enough of it.  There are only two possible solutions:  Earn more, spend less."  Try to argue with that!  I can't think of an exception. 

The other one I love is in regard to relationship problems, and it applies to every relationship of any kind:  "There are only three things you can do about a relationship conflict - change them, change yourself or leave."  Leaving could just mean leaving the room.  I would add that changing them is usually the first one us humans try - usually by raising hell in some way.  Almost always fails miserably.  People hate to be criticised.  It almost always just makes people want to fight back.  Asking extremely politely and respectfully will occasionally work. 

Changing myself means getting my attitude changed so that I can accept the person/situation exactly as it is without trying to change him, her or it.  That's the hardest one of all.  Of course, when I first heard this stuff, I wanted to argue - how can I accept a person or situation where I am being unfairly attacked?  The answer to that one is very complicated.  But the answer doesn't include arguing with the person.  Sometimes it just means that I accept reality rather than trying to change it.  It's likely that there's something I need to do about the situation instead of making it the responsibility of the other person. 

I love these simple ways of solving problems.  It's made my life so much less stressful.  Unfortunately, I've had to have help from someone every time I need to apply a principle.  I forget from one time to the next!

Saturday, October 01, 2011


Since I have such a limited amount of energy in a day's time now (actually I've always had a limited amount of energy in a day's time and so does everybody in the world - it's just less energy than I'm used to),  I have to make decisions about priorities.  I have never been good at this.  I always want to do everything and in order to deal with the limitations of time and energy, I just figure I will go faster, sleep less, or whatever.  Just fyi - that doesn't work.  But that's the strategy I most often use.  Grrrr. 

Recently I read that making decisions between priorities takes a lot of mental energy and we get tired quickly when we have to do a lot of it.  I can testify to the truth of that.  Whatever I was reading also said that the best way to make those decisions is to see which thing gives me a feeling of peace rather than stress.  I'm going to try that!

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