Wednesday, October 29, 2014

When Surrender is a Wonderful Thing

I always thought surrender was a bad thing.  It meant I had lost and was a loser.  It meant that I was just stuck in my helplessness and would not ever be able to make anything better.  I thought the purpose of life was to be a winner and that winning was the definition of success.  Of course, there's a little tiny bit of truth to that perspective, but there are many, many other perspectives that come from an almost opposite direction.

Surrender works really well in my life when I let go of trying to control something that I'm actually powerless to control.  I used to think that if I surrendered, it meant there was no hope.  But it actually means that I just need to ask for help. 

Sometimes there's a solution, and when I ask for help from God and other people, we can find it.  Other times when God and other people help me look at my situation, we see that it's something I can accept and be at peace.  Of course, acceptance is a huge big deal when the situation is truly tough.  But it gets so much better when I stop complaining inside my head.

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Living in Solutions - Changing the Things I Can

When I started moving from feeling helpless to solve problems to living in solutions, it felt like a whole new planet and a whole new life.  I was excited because I learned that I am the one that can change in order to solve problems and I don't have to try fruitlessly to change someone else.  It's a pretty big challenge to change myself, but at least that method of problem-solving at least has a hope of actually happening!

So, the very first step in living in solutions is believing that I am capable of solving problems.  Even if I don't know what to do, there's a world of people and information that can help me if I just ask.  Luckily I was past the stage in life where I thought only weak people asked for help.  I was willing to admit to being weak if that was what it took.  I was beat.

The help I got was a combination of information and instruction on how to generate solutions.  The basic thing about generating solutions was to ask myself one question:  "How can I make this situation better or solve this problem WITHOUT trying to make anyone else change."

Saturday, September 20, 2014

Living in Solutions - Acceptance

For so much of my adult life I lived with what I thought were unsolvable problems.  That's a hellish way to live.  After I came into recovery, I learned that there are a possibly innumerable solutions to every problem a human being can have. 

Of course, the first step in problem-solving is to use the Serenity Prayer to determine whether the problem is something I can change: 

 "God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change; courage to change the things I can; and the wisdom to know the difference."

I need the perspective of another person to determine this - usually.  Sometimes it's pretty obvious and I can see it myself, but it's always a good idea to check it out with a wise person.  If it's really true that there's nothing I can do to change the situation, there's still a solution - ACCEPTANCE.

I had to learn the acceptance part of problem-solving before I could learn the rest.  Acceptance is the hardest.  But here's my personal "how to" for acceptance:

1) Stop telling myself that this shouldn't be happening.  All that kind of thinking does is make me angry and upset.  Instead I remember what my dad said after the tornado took his house: he first thought, "why me?"  Then he thought, "why not me?  Is there something special about me that should make me immune to disaster?"  So, I'm not immune to events I don't like.  I can let go of my feeling of being treated badly and remember that the whole of humanity experiences this and remember that compassion for myself and for everyone is comforting. 

2)Then, since there's nothing I can do to make it better, I turn my attention to something else and pray for a peaceful mind and heart.

Friday, September 12, 2014

Analyzing Fear

I've learned that taking a good look at what's causing my stomach to knot up is a terrific idea even if it's a little unpleasant at first.  When I don't look, fear starts running my life without my knowing it and without my permission.

Many of the things I've been afraid of in my life have just been leftover stuff from childhood - like being afraid of being alone, lost or abandoned. 

It's not actually dangerous for me to be by myself, for example.  I'm perfectly capable of taking care of myself.  It's nice to have companionship but it's not actually necessary. 

It's also impossible for me to be lost - I was only lost if I couldn't find my mother when I was a child.  Now, as an adult, I might not know exactly where I am, but I can put my wits to work to figure it out so I can get where I'm going. (GPS technology and maps really help with this.) 

It's also not possible for me to be abandoned.  It's only possible for a child to be abandoned.  I don't need a caregiver so I'm okay even if someone in my life decides to leave my life.  I will miss the people that come and go, but that's not about being abandoned.  I can abandon myself, however, by not taking care of myself. So I've learned to grow up and take care of me.

Then there are the fears that are related to the past.  I've made a lot of mistakes, and I lived with the fear that they would catch up with me and I would pay a price.  Then I was taught by my spiritual mentors that it was my job to make amends for those mistakes as best I could, and do my best to not make the same mistakes again.  Then I can let go of the fear.  If I have to pay a price, I can pay it knowing that I've done what I could to amend the mistake but that the price is just.

Of course, anxiety and worry about the future also plagued me and still can today.  What has helped the most with those is to remember that I've made it through a lot of scary stuff with the help of God and people I love.  So, there's no reason to believe that God and the people I love will quit on me now.  I've surrendered to the reality that scary stuff happens to everybody and that even if I do everything right (which isn't actually possible for human beings), I will still not be able escape difficulty.  I will be okay anyway. 

Those annoying Buddhists keep telling us that everybody gets sick, has disappointments, has to deal with events that are difficult,. If we're lucky to live long enough, we'll get old, and we're all going to die.  They tell us that the answer is acceptance and compassion.  Most of our upset comes from believing that stuff isn't supposed to happen.

So...the practice of analyzing fear has kept me almost fear-free for quite awhile.  That is a huge gift and I highly recommend the practice of facing fear instead of running away from it.

Tuesday, September 02, 2014

Simplicity and Clothes

I used to have an on-going source of misery in trying to figure out what to wear.  I was 100% unhappy with my clothes 100% of the time.  I went clothes shopping and tried on clothes and hated whatever I put on.  I bought something so I'd have something to wear.  I hated all of it.  I felt like a loser.  I felt ugly.  I felt stupid.  It all made me feel as if my body was defective because I thought I looked so strange in my clothes.

A few years ago I started tracking my spending.  I read that by tracking it as if you were the bookkeeper for someone else's business, you will become aware of when you're spending money that doesn't benefit you and when your spending does benefit you.  At the end of the year I added it all up and discovered I had spent a tremendous amount of money on clothes and didn't have a thing in my closet that I actually liked.  What I really wanted was the ability to travel, and I could have taken several lovely trips on the money I spent to buy clothes I didn't like.

So...I started buying used clothes and very cheap clothes since I didn't seem to be able to buy stuff I looked good in and actually liked.  What the hell - spend as little as possible.  To my surprise I found a bunch of clothes that I really liked and that I looked good in that were used. 

Eventually one of my friends told me about a store that sold clothes for middle-aged and older women that were beautiful, fashionable, that fit our body types, and that seemed to be indestructible - never wrinkling or wearing out. Those clothes were exactly what I had been hoping to find my whole life.  Flowing, beautiful colors, very basic blacks, etc.

So...for the past 20 years or so, I buy 90% of my clothes at that store.  I don't need to put much thought into what to put on every day because what's hanging in my closet is simple and already matched up.  I could simplify a little more, but that would take a little bit of the fun out of dressing myself.

Being able to stop worrying about what to wear, how I look and whether I'm dressed appropriately has opened up space in my mind and my time for other much more valuable things.

Friday, August 29, 2014

Letting Go of Judgments

September in Leo's Sea Change program (Zen Habits), is letting go of being judgmental month.  Wow!  That's a challenge for me, for sure.

I really learned at an early age that criticizing everything was a nice change from my constant internal criticizing of myself.  I've spent most of my adult life with judgments taking up most of my mind.

In recovery I've learned that a judgmental mind is an unhappy mind and have worked at changing my thinking.  The first step was just to notice it.  Then I worked on substituting acceptance which was a whole lot harder.  But...then...recently...I noticed that it's likely most of my judgments are incorrect.  Wow!  that's really scary. 

I had thought I was probably correct in most of my judgments of other people and myself, but that I probably shouldn't do it and should accept instead. That's what a nice, spiritual person would do. But then I noticed that when other people judged me, they were doing it on the basis of what they thought they themselves would be doing if they were me and they were so far off base that it was actually funny.

Of course, I then realized that I was doing the exact same thing - basing my judgments of others on myself.  If those other folks are totally wrong in their judgments of me, I'm probably just as incorrect in my judgments of them.  That really helps with letting go of judgments.  Why would I want to keep them if they're basically bullshit?!

For example, I've judged myself harshly (and I think other people have also), for sleeping and resting too much.  I have trouble keeping commitments because I am likely to suddenly need to lie down.  Some have hinted and others have said outright that they thought I was undisciplined and basically a lazy person.  I thought so too and felt like a bum.

It wasn't until in recent years that I was diagnosed with PTSD and one of the symptoms in my case is that my nervous system is just used up so to speak.  When my ability to process incoming information is used up (and that happens with very little input), my body just shuts down and I have no choice but to stop functioning for awhile.

The whole thing annoys me and other people as well.  I finally decided to quit kicking myself for being impaired.  I don't know if anyone else will change their minds, but it's okay if they don't.  I'm working on not judging them for being judgmental.  (By the way, that's a subtle joke.)

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Why I Sleep with the Television On

A very long time ago - probably about 20 years ago - I discovered that if I fell asleep with the T.V. on, it helped me sleep better.  Instead of having to listen in the dark silence to my mind remind me of all the tragedies of my life, whatever story was on captured my mind instead, allowing me to slip quickly into sleep. 

I have been plagued with a disturbed sleep pattern for most of my life - waking up in the middle of the night and not being able to go back to sleep. My mind woke me up with many terrible thoughts - fears, painful memories, grief.  When I woke up and the T.V. was on, whatever was on immediately grabbed my attention and wiped out the crazy thinking.

If I watched for awhile, I almost immediately got sleepy again and fell back to sleep.

Of course, anyone in their right mind would think I was crazy to sleep with the television on.  I have heard many folks chastising me for doing it.  I don't even bother to defend myself, because I realize it still won't make sense to them.

I still hope that all my relaxation methods, guided visualizations, meditation, mantras and affirmations will allow me to sleep without the television.  I'm not going to give up because that would be preferable. 

I've progressed now, to leaving the television on to a recorded program to go to sleep.   I'm recording programs that might be soothing to sleep to.  When the recording ends, I usually continue to sleep.

Progress, not perfection.

Monday, August 25, 2014

The End of My ToDoList Life!

I spent the greater portion of my life in a rush to finish my to do list.  I started making todolists when I was a teenager because somehow I had gathered the impression that I was supposed to accomplish stuff in order to be a good person.  That's about a 60 year run of the todolist life.  Only one time did I actually finish a todolist and I had to stay up without food or sleep for over 24 hours in order to do it.  You would think I would have learned something from that experience.  I did think that I should make my todolists smaller but that was all.

Later in my 30s I had become so overwhelmed that I was downright crazy with everything I had taken on that I had to just stop or fall apart.  I was already a little disintegrated.  I stopped long enough to notice that there was a part of me that knew what was what and that could guide my actions and I was excited because I felt strongly that I had found the answer.  However, some terrible tragedies came along about that time and I totally let go of what I had discovered.  Some part of me connected the tragic things that happened with the discovery I had made and I became terrified to go back to that.

Finally,  at my now advanced age, I have arrived at a place where I am brave enough to stop again and renew my search for that part of me that I now know is intuition.  So my new practice is to ask that part of me for guidance and attempt to follow instructions.  I hope I will get really good at this sooner rather than later.  So far, I am delighted with the peacefulness I have.

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Painful Emotions are Actually Useful

For a lot of my adult life I just wanted all my emotions to just go away.  I kind of wanted happy to stay but was willing to give it up to get rid of the others.  I had no problem with going through life being numb.  I felt like I had had enough painful emotions to last a lifetime and I was just finished with the whole thing.

In recovery I learned that emotions were given to us humans as tools to keep us safe.  I had no idea!  I thought I was just being tortured for no reason.  "No," my mentors said, "If you broke your leg and had no pain, you would keep walking and do yourself damage.  The pain alerts you that you are injured and need to take action to take care of yourself."

The same thing is true of painful emotions.  Of course, the usefulness of those emotions depends on my ability to determine exactly what causes them so that I can take the appropriate action to take care of myself.   That was the hard part.  I had to have a lot of help with that because I had spent so much of my life blaming what was going on outside me for my painful emotions.  I learned that the pain was really about what I told myself.
When I was angry I noticed that I thought someone had deliberately done something to hurt me.  Sometimes that was probably not true.  It was a good idea to talk to a mentor to help me sort out when I needed to protect myself from someone and when I needed to just let it go.

When I was afraid, I also learned to talk to a mentor to sort out whether I was entertaining a real or imagined fear.  It turned out that most of my fears were about the future and that the problem was that I had a habit of believing I could predict the future and my predictions were always about disaster.  So...I learned to do today the next right things and let the future take care of itself.  Fear was useful in that I could use it for motivation to take action when action was needed.

Grief and sadness - unavoidable - a natural reaction to losing people I loved.  The price we pay for love.  But when I let go of anger about it, or beliefs that I could have somehow prevented the loss, I was just left with the sadness of missing the person and learning to live without that person.  Something that every human being must learn to do.  So...we can have compassion for each other.

I started out in recovery feeling guilty about everything.  My mentors taught me to sort that out too.  We started with harm I had done other people - guilt alerted me to the need to amend my behavior and do what I could to right the wrongs I had done.  When I had violated my values, I also felt guilty so I learned to examine my values, and commit to living up to them with the help of God. 

I was going to make mistakes, my mentors told me.  They also said, that a daily review would help me remember to stay on track, but that I was not to carry guilt for my mistakes for the rest of my life.  Instead I was to try to do better the next day.

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Keeping the Spark

Since people in recovery talk to each other about problems a lot, I've heard a lot from wives who are sick of their husbands demanding sex.  I have to laugh because my last husband never even came close to having to do that.

From what I hear, a lot of husbands think their wives are supposed to provide sex when they want them too, and they get mad if that doesn't happen.  I guess they just don't know what my husband knew.

Us girls are wired differently.  We aren't turned on by seeing you naked.  We might be turned on by help with the housework, sweet words of love, and hugs without a push toward sex. 

This might take a lot of time before we're in the mood - especially if you've been acting like we owed you sex on demand.  We're going to have to get over that.  At first we're going to think you're just trying to manipulate us into sex.  (which you are, of course.)

Speaking of time-- I don't mean a few hours.  It might be a few weeks.  Even then you're going to have to pretend you're in the back seat of the Chevy and you know it's going to take awhile for us to give in.  In fact maybe several make out sessions.

When we finally do give in, it had better be after a very long make out session.  And if you haven't yet learned how to make sex worth our while, you'd better study up on it.  And you better not roll over and snore.

Since my dear husband knew all this, there was never a problem.  He made sure I was always happy.  Best way to go, guys!

Monday, June 09, 2014

Why I Usually Don't Believe in Advice

When I'm quiet and listen to people talk around me in public settings, it surprises me how much of their conversation is either complaining or advice-giving.  I've come to believe that neither are actually very helpful in making life better.

Complaining doesn't solve problems.  Focusing on stuff I don't like and then complaining about it is a big waste of time.  I might get a little bit of satisfaction from being self-righteous, but nothing gets better as a result.  Plus my mind just runs in a negative groove which never makes me feel happy.  Acceptance has brought me so much more peace.

Advice-giving is not only a waste but even can be dangerous.  I have lots of opinions, but unless they're based on my life experience or on my education and training, they're just my ego flapping it's lips.  I'm just judging and then telling someone else what to do.  I could be extremely wrong.  If anyone listened to me, did what I said, and got horrible results...well, enough said.

Of course, I learned to complain and give advice from childhood.  I think everybody does.  Of course, those of us who consider ourselves intelligent (isn't that practically everybody?), think our opinions are the exact truth.  What an illusion we're all living in!  No wonder there are so many unsolved problems in our world.  I actually have no idea how things are supposed to be because I'm not God.  I actually have no idea what somebody else should do because I've not lived their life nor had their experiences. 

What can be helpful for me is to say the Serenity Prayer and really give thought to what I can change and what I can't.  If it seems after prayer that I can change something and it would be helpful, I can do it.  That's a big difference from complaining. 

If someone is struggling with a problem that I have experience with solving, education and training about, or I've researched solutions, I can share what options they might have for solving the problem - if they want my input.  If they haven't asked, well...why would I open my mouth?

Of course, this means that I pretty much ignore other people's complaining and advice.  I try to remember to change the subject or just let the advice go if I think it's well-intentioned.  (If I asked for input, it's from someone who has similar life experience or training.) 

I do wonder sometimes if it would be more helpful if I said what I think, but usually I don't.  I would probably say something that might hurt feelings.  I used to say something like, "I'm not open to advice from anyone who hasn't had my life experiences."  But that seemed kind of harsh so I stopped.  Of course, I was irritated and really wanted to say, "Oh honey, you are so full of shit.  You have no idea what you are talking about.  You are just sharing your judgmental thinking and that's inappropriate even if you are well-intentioned."  Very harsh. 

I think I should add that there are some things that probably apply to just about everything.  I saw something on TV once that was meant to be funny but was also truthful.  A guy was sitting in his recliner with his iphone.  He said, "Siri, tell me something wise."  Siri replied, "Always be kind, eat your vegetables and get plenty of sleep."

It's so much more peaceful inside my head when I'm not looking around for what someone else is doing that I judge as wrong, or complaining about stuff I don't like.  I can have fun, listen to music, read interesting books, hang out with friends, walk in the woods, take a nap, etc. instead.

Sunday, May 18, 2014

Social Convention and How I Let It Go

From time to time I notice that I deeply believe that social convention is a total load of hog wash.  I've believed it for such a long time, and it's so deeply ingrained that I forget about it.  Then something will come along to remind me, and I feel such gratitude that I let social convention go so long ago and how much more beautiful my life is because I did.

I usually am reminded because someone I've visiting with will say something snarky about one of my friends who is more visibly rebellious about social convention than I am, and I find myself putting up a defense.  I realize that I fly under the radar so effectively that lots of times those folks who are deeply committed to fitting in see me as one of them.  It's always a little bit of a shock!

My parents were intelligent, educated people and raised me to believe that because we were intelligent and educated, social convention didn't apply to us.  Our education and intelligence made it possible, they believed, to use good judgment in running our lives instead of relying on social convention.  They also raised me to understand that if you openly defied "the rules" you would pay a price, so, you can do what you want, but it's better to do it on the down low. 

Weirdly, I also had an extremely low opinion of myself along with having been raised to believe that intelligent, educated people like myself were actually much better than other people.  What a dichotomy!  It just depended on my mood whether I thought I was better than others or a piece of garbage.  But I didn't look down on myself because I wasn't following the rules, just because I thought I was generally no good.

When I was in my early 20s I read "The Feminine Mystique" which convinced me that the trappings of femininity were all a load of hogwash.  That was the final marker of the place where I let go of every scrap of belief in social convention although I continued to be a rebel on the down low.

When I came into recovery, I was scared to death that I was going to have to follow "the rules" in order to get well.  But I was willing to do whatever it took.  So, for a little while I tried (not very successfully)to do what I was "supposed" to do.  Finally, my dear spiritual mother explained that recovery was not about "supposed to's" but was about being myself with all my individuality.   That was a huge relief.

Eventually I got well enough to go on a journey of seeking out who I really was.  I still believed that social convention was hogwash, but I went even further and believed it was actually a barrier to a joyful life.  It was the precursor to shame because it set me up to fear judgment from other people.  Eventually I let go of even the fear of being judged as long as I was doing the best I could to live by spiritual principles. 

At my now advanced age I am increasingly aware that I wouldn't have the beautiful life I've had and have now if I had spent even a teeny, tiny bit more time trying to follow the rules.  I must still be on the down low, though, since I'm sometimes mistaken for those who worry about social convention.  But even that's okay by me.  I'm fine with being a little bit of a secret total rebel.

Sunday, April 27, 2014


"R-E-S-P-E-C-T  Find out what it means to me..."

I've always loved Aretha Franklin's song, although I never really thought about what respect meant.  It just seemed to be a song about wanting a man to  treat her better as a woman.  As I've worked at self-examination as a big part of recovery, I've realized that I never really had much respect for myself and as a result, not much respect for anyone or anything else.  As I began to live more closely aligned to who I believed I was created to be, I began to have some respect in general - for myself and for other people I admired.

When Nelson Mandela died recently I began reading more about him. Everything I knew about Nelson Mandela made me admire him.  His courage, his intellect, his ability to forgive and his ability to endure 27 years in prison amazed me.  And, of course, his huge role in changing South Africa's apartheid without a civil war.  I learned that there was a lot to learn about respect from Mandela's way of living. What really attracted my attention was how he commanded respect from his captors while he was in prison. 

Mandela believed that gaining respect was necessary if he was going to be able to help make a change in his country on behalf of himself and other black people.  He spent much time contemplating how to do that since he was a black man in a country where white people had the power and treated all black people with contempt.  For example, he just did not respond when his captors called him anything but Mr. Mandela.  He put thought into the way he carried himself physically, how he showed emotion, and how he communicated with others.  His purpose was to embody dignity and gain respect.

I am a child of the 40s and 50s where women were definitely second class citizens.  The lack of respect (contempt) for women weighed on me too - of course, to a much lesser extent than Mandela experienced.  It was so much a part of my life I didn't realize that I was carrying a weight until well into my adulthood. 

When I became a foster parent to children with disabilities, I discovered to my horror, the extreme contempt many people had for them.  I have been told many time that they would be better off dead.  I realized that those people didn't see people with disabilities as fully human, just like they didn't see people of other races as fully human, and, the most frightening of all for me, women were seen as a little bit subhuman.

In the 40s and 50s, women were supposed to be wives and mothers only and were to work only if our families needed the money.  We were subject to the will of our husbands in family decision making.  In general, the jobs available to us were secretary, nurse, teacher, waitress, and prostitute - none of which paid enough for a woman to be independent.  It wasn't possible for women to have credit independent of a man. 

Just like snarky jokes about black people, there were lots of jokes about how women were not very bright; too emotional; bad drivers; not capable of being doctors, lawyers, supervisors, executives, business owners; how "being on the rag" made us irrational, etc.  Keeping women "barefoot and pregnant" was a goal as well as a joke.  Men were considered to be intellectually superior to women in every way.  Men who had sex outside marriage and with more than one woman were just being men.  Women who exhibited the same behavior were sluts.

I took that all in without being aware of it until in my early 20s when I read The Feminine Mystique. I woke up to what kind of culture I was living in and how it was affecting me.  I was amazed.  Ever since I've done my best to notice the disrespect for myself I picked up from the culture around me.  Unfortunately, I didn't have a guide to help me develop self-respect and dignity.  Mostly what I did in response was gripe and throw fits.  Which didn't add a thing to my self-respect or dignity.

Unlike me, Mandela was raised in a family and community where he did not experience the contempt of whites so he didn't have to overcome any beliefs he might have otherwise acquired about the superiority of whites.  His family was much respected in his tribe and therefore he himself was treated with respect.  It was a great shock to him when he left home and experienced the world where he was treated like trash.  I, on the other hand, knew from the time I knew I was a girl that I was considered second class and for a long time believed that it was true.

Of course, Mandela's efforts to be respected were less personal than strategic.  His goal was freedom for black people in South Africa.  I haven't had such big goals.  I just wanted to be out of the emotional pain I was in when I came into recovery. I would never have guessed that respect was part of recovery.  I respected my sponsor, though.  I thought she knew everything (I still think she did). She was a wise person.  She thought I was worth something.  She said I was a sick person trying to get well, not a bad person trying to get good.

Bit by bit by doing what was suggested in my recovery program, I've gained respect for myself and then for others too.  I've come to realize that all humans deserve respect.  Even the ones that look like they are evil.  All of us are God's creation.  So even people that seem weak, bad or even evil have to have some worth or they wouldn't have arrived on the earth.  I think it's up to us to decide to live in a way that we can respect ourselves and as part of that process try our best to understand others. 

Sunday, March 30, 2014

My Plan for Myself as I Get Older

I worked in the disability field for several years and in the elder care field for a lot more years.  In both of those jobs I found that a lot of people simply ignored the truth - we are all going to get older, most likely we're going to get sick, and we're all going to die. 

I suppose that many of us hope that we're going to be just fine and very functional and then one day we'll just keel over and be gone.  The truth is it hardly ever works that way.  Most of us are sick and need help for awhile before we finally kick the bucket.  And in this day and age of prolonging life with technology, that period of sickness can get to be very, very long.

Family members of people with disabilities rarely have made legal arrangements for them for when their caregivers get sick or die.  One family member said her plan was to outlive her son with disabilities.  The only problem with that plan was that she was 40 years older than he was.  Almost no one I met with had made a plan for what they wanted their family members to do when they themselves got sick and needed help.  It's just stuff us human beings don't want to think about.  So we just pretend it isn't true and wait until there's a crisis.  Then everyone rushes around to take care of the problem without time to make good decisions.

It occurred to me the other day that although I knew exactly what I was going to do under what circumstances, I probably needed to put it in writing so that my family would know what I thought.  I've told them, but people can forget - especially when they don't want to think about it.  I do have an advance directive and a will.  But that's really not enough.

So...  if I have brain damage and am not able to take care of myself, I recommend that my family members take me straight to a nursing home and skip any guilt they would have about it.  During the time I worked in the elder care field, I visited every nursing home in my area and a lot of them around the state.  They are all pretty much the same.  The expensive ones have prettier furniture and surroundings, but they are the ones that cost almost double compared to the others.  Plus the expensive ones are short of care staff just like the less expensive ones. 

So my advice to my family is don't make a big deal out of it.  There aren't any good nursing homes so don't spend any money.  Do what you can to get me eligible for Medicaid (which will mean you'll have to sell a lot of my stuff) and pick a nursing home that is close to you or whatever.  I've been low income for virtually all my life so I think using Medicaid is perfectly appropriate.  In the final analysis, though, if I'm out of it, I hereby give them permission to do whatever is best for them.  It's not going to matter to me anyway.

When I get to the point where I shouldn't be driving - and I plan to take the AARP tests regularly to be sure that I am capable - I will move into an inexpensive place that will provide me with meals, some housekeeping and a little transportation.  I've already looked at some of those places and I could almost pay for one with my Social Security income.

I don't have a lot of money and I don't get a lot of Social Security so I supplement the Social Security with savings.  If I run out of money, my plan is to get a reverse mortgage.  My house is small so its value isn't that great.  But it would tide me over for awhile.  If I have to move, I will sell it and use the money for living expenses.

I am blessed that I am never lonely and am quite happy living alone.  I am blessed to have friends that help me if/when I'm sick and not able to get out.  I have alarms on my doors to scare off burglars.  I carry my cell phone with me so if I fall, I'll call somebody.  If I have a heart attack or a stroke and can't call somebody, one of those "buttons" wouldn't help me anyway.  Usually I talk to someone every day so if I were out of touch for a day, someone would check.  On the other hand, dying from a stroke or a heart attack isn't that bad a way to go.

To clarify regarding the advance directive - I have absolutely no fear of death.  I'm not in the least bit interested in living longer if I am dependent on someone else's care because my quality of life depends on my independence.  That might not be true for everybody, but it's true for me.  If and when I get older than 75, I'm going to sign a "Do Not Resuscitate" because 75 plus years is plenty long enough to live.  I don't need to be brought back from near death - it's time for me to go.

I've had a lot of deaths to deal with in my family and in my work life I've dealt with many of these issues.  So, I don't really have denial.  I've watched many people get old and have admired how some of them did it and been appalled at how others did it.  I don't plan to sit around and feel sorry for myself as I get more and more decrepit.  My objective is to live until I die rather than wait to die.  

I am taking good care of myself.  I eat nutritiously.  I work constantly at keeping my weight down.  I exercise. I do what I can to be useful to other people.  I ask for help when I need it.  I do little bits of service as part of my recovery program.  I have an active program of spiritual growth - prayer, a meditation practice, study.  So I hope I will remain independent and functional as close to my death as I possible can.   

Since this is a public blog, although this is written primarily for my family members, I hope it's useful to someone else.  I'm putting this here so that it's easy to find - it's online and in my data base.  If I change my mind about any of it, I can just update.

Friday, March 21, 2014

The Path of Intuition

I'm just making a note of what I'm working on now:  I've made a commitment to myself to develop my intuition - to really spend some quality time with myself working on it.  I've felt for many years that this was what I needed to do, but wander off from it time after time.

It's really kind of anxiety provoking.  I'm used to relying on my rational mind for decision making and I've learned from the greater world that the best way to live is by self-discipline.  The thing is I'm 72 and a half and I'm still not disciplined even though I've worked at it for decades.  Also, my rational mind, smart as I think I am, has let me down time after time.

I spent some time a few days ago with a friend who does intuitive readings.  Right off the bat she said that I was longing for something very intensely that I still had not allowed myself to do.  I instantly knew what it was because for the past couple of years I've felt passionately about clearing away my time in order to focus. 


"The intellect has little to do on the road to discovery.  There comes a leap in consciousness, call it intuition or what you will, and the solution comes to you and you don't know how or why." 

Albert Einstein

Thursday, March 20, 2014

Personal Preferences vs General Rules

Not having a lot of energy for running around in the world gives me time for introspection.  Not the most fun always.  I have realized that for a great deal of my life I pretty much considered myself to be the smartest person in the room.  That illusion led to my believing that my personal preferences should be the general rule for all human beings.  Wow!  That's crazy. 

I am grateful that I've found out I'm not always the smartest person in the room - in fact I rarely am.  I have a lot of talent with language which can make me seem smart but that's far from making me a genius! 

I'm also grateful to realize that personal preferences are just personal to each person - that what I prefer has no connection whatever to good vs. bad or right vs. wrong.  I just happen to love the color blue, dragons, and simplicity in decoration.  I just happen to prefer wearing black a lot because it makes me look less fat and it goes with everything else. 

I used to think that people who decorated with lots of brown and lots of furniture and do-dads were just plumb crazy.  They would be so much happier in the peaceful space of simplicity.  (They probably would think my personal preference created a  "cold" environment.)  I thought people who dressed in bright colors and lots of variety were spending too much of their precious time on dressing themselves and were frivolous.  (What if I'm just too lazy to care?) 

I prefer to wash all my laundry in cold water because it saves wear and tear and fading.  I only use half of a dryer sheet at a time, because I found out that's all that's needed.  I only put half as much dishwasher detergent in and my dishes are pretty clean.  All that seems kind of insignificant now but I used to feel pretty self-righteous about it.  I was saving money and the environment.  Uh...not so much that everyone "should" follow my example.

Now I've begun to understand that I was chasing after being "right" which made me feel a little less down on myself.  Thanks to my spiritual mentors, I've learned how to let go of my heavy self-criticism which in turn has helped me recognize the difference between personal preference and general rules.

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

When Someone Dies Your Relationship is not Over

The love of my life left the earth about 8 1/2 years ago, but I am still discovering things about him, about myself, and about my relationship with him.  I keep an ongoing letter in my data base and add to it when I think of something I want to tell him. 

Often what I want to tell him is "thank you" because when I hear about someone else's conflicts with a spouse I realize I could have had their problem but didn't because of his good relationship skills. 

For example, he was a fabulous stepfather.  He never told me what to do as a mother.  He never criticized my children.  He told me that he saw himself as a person who could support me as a mother and that he intended to be a friendly adult in the lives of my children and grandchildren.  He gave us all a lot of encouragement and love and zero criticism.  He made us laugh a lot.

I've always said that one of the things I love in a man is an ability to keep his mouth shut.  Occasionally he would make a polite request for me to stop talking about something (usually an unresolved problem I was wrestling with) when getting up and leaving the room didn't work. 

When I got mad at him, he would say things like, "Remember me?  I'm on your side!"  Or, "I don't understand why you're so upset.  Please tell me what you want me to do."  Very reasonable.  Usually bumped me right out of my upset and into problem solving.

I really did know he was on my side.  I counted on that.  For the most part I was sure he wouldn't take advantage of me knowingly and that he thought I was pretty close to perfect.  (He must have thought that because he never voiced any judgments of me.)
I always felt respected as well as loved.  That surely made him easy to live with most of the time.

Monday, March 10, 2014

The Most Generous Gift We Can Give Ourselves

When I was reading one of my recovery books this morning, I was happy to see one of the sentences that expressed a central principles of recovery programs.  The meaning was not new.  I've seen it and heard it thousands of times over the years, but I was just delighted to see it expressed in a way that was new to me.

Basically, it just said that maybe the most generous gift we can give ourselves is to treat everyone with compassion and respect - even those who have treated us badly.  Maybe even ESPECIALLY those who have treated us badly. 

Well, I used to think, that idea is just dumb.  How could anyone but a saint even do it?  Plus, how could that attitude possibly be a gift to myself

Of course, the reading explained it, and the answer is ridiculously obvious:  Harboring anger and resentment toward people who have treated us badly just keeps us tied to the past and to an ongoing cycle of bitterness that keeps us feeling miserable and victimized!

I have to be constantly reminded that it's to my benefit to live by spiritual principles.  It isn't to make me into a good person necessarily, but to make me into a happy, joyous and free person!!!

Thursday, February 27, 2014

Confusion, Consternation and Fascination - Sex Over a Lifetime

I feel obligated to write about what I've learned about sex over a lifetime, but I realize I actually don't know that much.  Which is a shame since sex seems to rule the world - well, money is the big ruler but sex is all mixed up with money anyway.

I guess that since sex is all mixed up with rules, shame, guilt, confusion, judgment and general ignorance, it's no wonder that it hasn't been a big topic of scientific research until the recent past.  Even now, it seems to be a bit taboo as a research subject.

I thought that by the time I reached a ripe old age (which I achieved when I reached 70 two and a half years ago), science would have gathered enough information to at least reduce the misery human beings are in because of sex a little bit.  But not so far as I can see.  I'm sad because I'm probably going to die before much gets better.

So, here's the thing - sex is one of the most powerful urges on the face of the earth.  Hunger is first but right after that comes sex.  And we are all ignorant but we passionately don't believe in our ignorance. Most of us seem to believe we already know everything about sex.  Not knowing that we don't know and believing that we do is the absolute worst kind of ignorance.

And our ignorance is causing misery everywhere.  Here's a partial list:
  • Unwanted pregnancies
  • Unwanted children
  • Parents who never wanted to be parents and who don't know how to be parents or are so messed up themselves that they are unable to parent.  Leading to abused/neglected children who grow up to be dysfunctional adults
  • Sexual jealousy leading to violence
  • Massive guilt and shame
  • Clueless adolescents misusing their sexuality
  • Wars fought over beliefs about sexuality
  • Rape
  • Other types of violence against women
  • Unhappy marriage partners
  • Hate crimes against gays
  • Subjugation of women
  • Men believing they're not good enough for all kinds of sexual reasons.
  • Young girls believing that their sexuality determines their worth in the world.
  • All sorts of bad hard-wiring that causes sexual predation of children, serial killers, etc.
  • Politicization of sex - laws governing it, etc.
  • AIDs epidemic in Africa
Then, here is a list of the things I wish would happen:

*  Everyone gets operating instructions for how their own body works.  (When I was growing up, there was no information at all.  I guess they thought that if we knew nothing, we would do nothing.  Haha and good luck with that!)
*  Everyone gets operating instructions for how the other sex's body works. 
*  Everyone gets instructions on how to manage their sex drive so that our sex drive doesn't drive us to do things we don't want to do.  This instruction would be mandatory for kids going into puberty.  (I don't mean cold showers.  That's stupid.)  I'm not sure there's even been any research on how to do this.
*  Everyone in or past puberty has easy, free access to birth control so that there are no unwanted pregnancies, no unwanted children, and no parents that don't want to be parents.
*  Everyone who has a child and decides they don't want to be a parent can drop the child off at the local fire station.
*  People who are hardwired to be attracted to children or want to rape or other sadistic sex urges are encouraged to get medication to eliminate their sex drive before they hurt someone.  If they do hurt  someone, they are in prison forever or must undergo mandatory elimination of their sex organs - their choice.
*  Medication to temporarily eliminate sex drive would be readily available to anyone who feels their sexuality is a burden.
*  Last but not least - and this is just a hope that will probably not be realized any time soon - religion that condemns people for their sexuality and sexual expression that hurts no one would cut that out. 

Sunday, February 16, 2014

Give and Take in a Partnership

I'm currently single (and happy about it), but I've been married three times.  I learned a lot.  I've learned a lot more in my recovery program.  I also talk to a lot of people who are in a partnership and having conflict.  I've learned a lot from that too.

The thing is, from time to time one of the partners has a huge desire of the heart that if it were satisfied would make the other person feel like he/she were living in hell.  Unfortunately this kind of situation is kind of frequent - just my observation.  I'm not talking about the day to day conflict of where we eat dinner, who left the trash overflowing, etc.  I'm talking about the big stuff when someone really wants something and the other person feels terribly threatened.

I recently heard from one side of a conflict like that.  Luckily neither one of the partners blamed the other one.  Blame is usually the way it goes. Both sides feel attacked.  Then the conflict escalates into who's right and who's wrong, good/bad, etc.  Both see the other as an enemy.  Neither side wants to give in because they don't want to feel like the other person controls them.  Usually these fights get really messy and mean, and there are a lot of permanently hurt feelings. 

But in this case both sides listened to the other.  One of them gave in because of the pain the other person was in at the very thought of the potential change.  I'm sure that was hard to do.  They are to be congratulated for not trying to tear each other to shreds in a power struggle.

Saturday, February 08, 2014

Rocketed into the Fourth Dimension, Part 2

Let's see...since just before Christmas I've had one difficulty after another.  Eye doctor said I needed to do cataract surgery.  The guy that drove my car out of the car wash didn't speak English that well and didn't do my left-foot accelerator that well either - drove it right over a three-foot high concrete barricade, which according to State Farm, totaled it.  I missed Christmas with my Texas family.  I was coming down some stairs after a movie with friends on New Year's day, and twisted my bad knee.  There was an ominous pop and I left there in a wheelchair.  I missed my middle grandson's graduation from Air Force basic training.  About the time my knee healed and I was pretty much healed from the cataract removal from my right eye, I got the flu.  (I forgot about the flu shot - so much else was going on.)  My car was finally fixed (it wasn't really totaled) and I drove it home.  I pulled into the garage as far to the right as I could so that I could get the driver's door open all the way, making it possible for me to get out of the car without having to bend my right knee.  I miscalculated and ripped the right mirror off.  During this whole time, the weather was very wintery - snow, ice, bitter cold. 

So...   In the past any one of those things would have caused me to completely freak out.  Fear would have overcome my rational mind.  My self-criticism would have escalated and I would have kicked myself from here to Sunday.  All of those things happening in a short period of time ... well, I can't even imagine what I would have been like.  Instead, I laughed.  (I also cussed a good bit, but I laughed at the same time.)  I realized that all of that stuff was just stuff that happens.  The part I played in it just proved that I'm human.  Like I've been taught in recovery, I looked for the good in each event.  I'm still looking but I'm sure I'll find something to appreciate.  The lucky thing is that my friend, Eric, has been staying with me so he drove me from here to there, went to the store, picked up prescriptions, put drops in my eyes, heated up canned chicken and noodle soup and made soothing noises.

None of that may sound like much, but I am convinced that it's proof that I've been rocketed into the fourth dimension.  I was mildly irritated instead of being a basket case.  It was pretty peaceful inside my head.  I decided that God had given me another opportunity for a retreat.  I read Anne Lamott's latest book on spirituality and the latest issue of the Sun magazine.  I lost a couple of pounds.  Definitely the fourth dimension.

Wednesday, February 05, 2014

"Rocketed into the Fourth Dimension"

I recently talked with someone who was questioning the phrase, "rocketed into the 4th dimension" from the Big Book.  I'm not sure what she thought it meant, but she was pretty sure it hadn't happened for her.  She said she had been rocketed into a normal life.

So, from listening to her, I went back in time to when I felt like I had been rocketed into the fourth dimension and what that meant to me.  The simplest explanation was that I had had a spiritual awakening.  It was a feeling rather than a lifestyle change where I got a bunch of money, a fabulous boyfriend, and looked like a super model.

My best description is that I felt my spirit wake up.  I knew I had a spirit, but I wasn't sure where or what it was.  It was kind of a gradual process.  I felt as if I was in touch with a part of my original, true self as I was created to be and that that self was absolutely loved by my Creator. 

My spirit has never gone back to sleep again.  My spirit keeps pushing me toward living my life from my heart instead of my head.  My Creator speaks to me through my spirit.  My spirit is never afraid, is always accepting of all of life, is eager to see what life is going to bring next, and is totally confident that she can create the life she was created to live.

I don't know if I actually felt rocketed but certainly one minute my spirit was asleep and the next minute she was awake.  It wasn't all that dramatic and still isn't.  What a gift.

Friday, January 31, 2014

I Want to Understand Points of View Other Than My Own

I've been puzzling for days over Mike Huckabee's comment that Democrats are trying to make women think we need the help of the government to regulate our libidos.  I'm completely lost.  Since he said it in terms of birth control, I guess it must mean that if women could regulate our libidos, we wouldn't need birth control.  I guess if I would have been able to regulate my libido, I would never have become pregnant accidentally. 

I guess unwanted pregnancies are a function of women's unregulated libido rather than lack of birth control.  Which adds up to:  don't have sex unless you want to get pregnant - which would be about twice in a lifetime for most women.  Not only would we women have to have tight control on our libido, that would pretty much mean a whole lot less sex for men - except and unless they paid for it or got it from women who wanted endless numbers of kids. 

Well, I can't really figure this out.  Was he serious?  Is that really what a lot of conservative men think? 

Sunday, January 19, 2014

I'm Censoring Myself

Sometimes my mental censorship is a good thing.  Sometimes it's not.  A lot of what I think is not necessarily a good thing to share.  I used to believe that my thoughts were the truth and that they represented me - who I am.  I've learned - and a fabulously helpful lesson it was - that a great many of my thoughts are pretty meaningless.

One of the spiritual journeys I've taken and am still on, is the practice of watching my thoughts.  Some of what I observe might be useful to someone else even though I would probably get quite a bit of disagreement from a number of people.  When I'm watching my thoughts, I try to set aside those things that might be useful from just the random stuff that wanders through my mind.

It occurs to me from time to time that all of us seem to be focusing on a bunch of things that are pretty irrelevant to our quality of life and ignoring things that might really help us live our best lives.  I can't speak for anyone but myself, but when I'm ignoring stuff that could really be in my best interests to pay attention to, I'm usually unconsciously trying to protect myself from noticing that I am the one who could stand to make some changes!

Here are some things I tend to censor:

Nutrition - It's clear from all the scientific research that the quality of our lives is hugely dependent on what we put in our mouths.  In relation to how massively important it is, the amount of attention I pay to what I eat is pretty small.

Exercise - I have many, many excuses for why this item isn't near the top of my priority list.  After all, I'm kind of old, kind of disabled, and what do you expect of poor little old me?  Oh, come on:  once again exercise is at the top of the researchers' list for creating quality of life.

Meditation - Many amazing things have been discovered by studying regular meditators.  It doesn't seem to matter what religion they are or if they even have one, but spending some time being quiet and still for a few minutes every day seems to make a huge difference in their stress levels, their ability to get along with other people, etc. etc. 

Okay, okay.  I'll stop censoring the thoughts about these obvious priorities and put some more effort into them instead of the bologna I usually pay attention to and report back.

Responsibilities I Believe I Must Take Seriously

I recently had a conversation with a friend who was very upset with a couple of people whom she's close to in her life.  Being a very talented problem solver, I started trying to share some ideas about ways to solve the conflicts without trying to change the other person.

She got even more upset - probably because she was venting not problem solving and I was wrecking her vent with solutions.  The thing is, she had already told me about these problems multiple times and in my mind the venting wasn't doing either of us any good. 

My responsibility that I lost track of in that conversation because I was trying to please her, was my responsibility to myself.  Once I realized she wasn't in a problem-solving mood, I could have just excused myself politely from the conversation.  But because I care about her and knew there were some easy solutions that would take her out of her upset, I foolishly tried to convince her to problem solve.

What a waste of time that was!  I ended by apologizing for my foolishness and made a mental note to at least remember to ask people who are venting, if they want me to help them problem-solve or not. 

Blog Archive