Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Olympic Issues

Women in the Olympics have relationship issues too. Here’s one story:

Marta was an ice-skater who fell in love with Bob, a speed skater. But he came too quickly and their relationship ended fast. Next she dated Bill who was a snow boarder but he always came home drunk, refused to dress up, and took risks driving. Next she started seeing Jason who was the ski mogul champ but the relationship was bumpy from the very start. Nothing with him was easy, nothing was ever smooth.

Then Marta met Tubor who was the luge champion. She really liked him but she couldn’t tell if he liked her too. He preferred to be alone and he always seemed to be speeding away from her. She finally started hanging out with Jerry and John, the bobsled team. But they were always together and if she dated either one the other one was always pushing her or egging her on.

One night she went to an Olympic party alone and she watched the crowd. She saw Derk, who was also a skater, twirling around with other girls. She has always assumed he was gay because of the sparkles and the sequins. But here he was in jeans. He was playing and laughing. Even the snowboarders couldn’t upset him. Then she saw a man enter the party with a gun. Everyone looked nervous till they realized it was Jeff from the biathlon who sometimes liked to stop and take a shot—even if he was just shopping or walking down the street.

Marta began to wonder if she should date a summer Olympian—maybe a long distance runner would be the kind of man who could go the distance. Or maybe a hurdler who would have the strength to get over the obstacles that show up in any relationship. Maybe a swimmer? No, she thought, the one she’d dated years before was all wet.

What she realized was the she needed to find a mate who had all these abilities: who was strong and flexible and fast and strategic. She wanted a man who knew that relationships are practice and who would push through disappointments and who could do what he needed to do no matter how he felt. A gold medal man; that was her goal.

Monday, February 22, 2010

Fatal Flaw Progress

Well, two more days to go in my new behavior practice I’m calling “No-Her”. So far so good but it’s not easy. What I’m learning from zipping my lip is that I am very judgmental, very opinionated and just chock full of ideas about how other people should live. This practice of not-saying makes it clear that while I’m not saying certain things I’m thinking them—a lot! Next practice is going to be quieting the voice in my head as well as the one connected to my mouth..

But I have to say, this is progress. This weekend we spent a lot of time with family where “her” was a topic of conversation and I was very worried heading into Saturday—I prepared though and had my strategies. And I prayed. I don’t want to miss that point: I prayed. And there was grace in that the usual chat was limited and I only needed to deflect one time to not be engaged in any gossip. I came home very very grateful.

Friday, February 19, 2010

Stages of Relapse

Every month I review this list of the Eight Stages of Relapse. It’s a kind of mini-inventory or mental tune-up and reality check for me:

1. The beginnings of secret dissatisfaction.

2. Boredom or frustration at home or at work.

3. Relationships change.

4. Return of denial.

5. Emotional drift—away from significant others, friends, AA people, meetings, sponsor.

6. Anger and resentment.

7. Depression and dishonesty.

8. Relapse.

Monday, February 15, 2010

More Practice on My Fatal Flaw

I’m at day 14 of practicing no “Her”—my new behavior to help me to let go of the “fatal flaw”. (See the post here on February 4th).  It hasn’t been easy. I have been able to change what I say but not always what I think, ah, but still. Progress not perfection?

I’m learning some things and here’s my surprise. While I knew all of this intellectually I would not been able to really get it in a visceral way without this experiment –changing MY behavior.

What I’m learning is this: When I focus on “her” or “him” or “them” it distracts me from me. It’s actually destructive—to me! When my attention is over there—“she should” “he shouldn’t” and “he should tell her”—I abandon myself. This is not new—I have been to AlAnon—I read all the self help books—but by keeping my mouth shut I had the chance to experience this.

The temptation of course is that by analyzing “her” and announcing what “he” and “they” should think or do—gives me the heady illusion that I am having some kind of control, but the truth is I am nowhere near myself—I leave me in the dust—when I do that. It’s distracting and destructive. To me. And oh yeah, I’m getting this too: The most selfish and loving thing I can do for me—is to take my attention away from “her”.

Saturday, February 13, 2010

Chopin's Heart

Today, February 13th is the birthday of the Polish composer Frederic Chopin. When he died in 1849 his body was buried in Paris. But his heart, at his special request, was placed in the wall of The Church of the Holy Cross in Warsaw.

Where would you like your heart to be when you die?

Where is it now?

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Sylvia Plath Bake-Off

Today is the anniversary of the death of poet, Sylvia Plath. In London, February 11th 1963, Plath put her two small children to bed, then turned on the gas stove in her kitchen, stuck her head in the oven and died. She was 30. She was talented. She was celebrated. She was heartsick. She was depressed.

Celebrate Plath today by baking something yummy. Make cookies for someone who loves you. Bake lasagna for dinner. Read a poem. Write a poem. Cherish your life.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Don't Name It

I heard an artist speak this week about making art and how what we think chnages what we see. He was talking about perception, and how thinking distorts what we percieve and hence what we believe.

He said, “The best way to see something is to NOT name it—words stop seeing.”

It’s a challenge but it works...when you look at a tree try to see it with out saying “tree” to yourself or telling yourself all the things you know about trees: green, vertical, growing, leaves, etc. Just see without the words and you’ll see more.

Pretty cool.

Then it hit me; I could try doing the same thing with people. What if I saw him without saying, “boyfriend” or “lover” or “student” or “teacher” or “man” or “mine” or any other words that typically flow thru my head unbidden? What would I see if I looked but didn’t label and didn’t name?

Monday, February 08, 2010

No Crystal Ball

My meditation book this morning quotes from Psalm 119: 105: “Your word is like a lamp for my feet and a light for my path.”

It hit me: A light for one step at a time, not a crystal ball to show the entire future.

Dang! I would so much prefer the crystal ball or one of those bright sweeping spotlights that show everything. But the promise is a lamp.

It reminds me of the advice to writers from Robert Frost. He said: It’s very hard to drive in fog when you can only see as far as your headlights. But in fact you can drive a very long way and you can get home if you simply proceed to drive looking at only the road your headlights reveal.

Writing too.

Life too.

Sunday, February 07, 2010

Reading and Books

I’ve been asked about all the reading and self-help books. This is a perfect “out of the woods” topic. After many years of recovery I still depend on sources far outside the “conference approved literature”. In fact I owe my recovery to a self-help book: “Women Who Love Too Much” by Robin Norwood.

That book was so singularly important to opening my eyes to my addictions and to the ways I was a captive of childhood beliefs that I use this shorthand for the title: “WWL2M”. That book, ostensibly about relationships and codependence, also contained this challenge: “If you find yourself connecting to the ideas in this book you may also have a problem with alcohol, drugs, food or other substance addictions.” Robin Norwood gave the 800 numbers for all the anonymous groups. In those days I qualified for many of them. And I called.

I still keep my first copy of WWL2M in a place of honor with all of my AA literature.

But there is more to the question about reading in recovery and self-help books. Many years ago a very smart therapist helped me understand reading this way: some of us need to sneak up on ourselves to make major changes. We may need to go into difficult places and may need to swim in some troubling emotional waves as healing begins. When we read about these things first we are building a “cognitive life raft”, our intellectual base on which to safely enter the emotional waters that lead to growth.

So yes, books—lots and lots of books, and lots and lots of reading as part of a joyous and continual recovery.

Friday, February 05, 2010

Valentine for Me

So far so good on the “fatal flaw” and “naked impulse to control”. But I have to say, the instant I posted that blog on laying off talking about “her” I wanted to take it back. But maybe that’s why we need to tell other people when we want to make a change. I want to break the “her” habit so I’m putting my 21 day test out here with you.

I’m thinking of this as a Valentine gift to me. I will love myself enough to put the focus on my self, my life and my behavior NOT on someone else’s. So for the next 19 days no “her” just me.

Thursday, February 04, 2010

The Fatal Flaw

I’m ready to look at another little addiction of mine. I’m not alone in this and that’s my only consolation. I’ve been reading an article about relationships and the writer suggests that many couples negotiate their intimacy around an “I love you, but…” There is often some personal habit, (I call it the fatal flaw) that becomes a sticking point.

I was reading along and smugly agreeing. I know several couples who are stuck on his smoking or her sloppiness, his scrimping and her overspending. She wants to change his diet or he wants to change the time she spends watching TV. Yes, I see their problem; I knowingly nod to myself.

The writer goes on to say the pattern includes rallying ones friends to one’s side. Yes his friends agree her habit is awful and her friends agree they could never live with a man who did that. The flaw might be lateness, cheapness, bad jokes, poor table manners.

Then the author goes on to say this: “The battle over the personal flaw is a pure power struggle. The critic wants to redesign the partner to his or her own tastes and specifications. All of the arguments are a justification for the naked impulse to control.”

What? “The naked impulse to control.” Say it isn’t so! And not me. Me? Really?

The author wisely points out that the partner also engages by resisting any change as a way to carve out their own area of autonomy. People hold onto habits: TV, smoking, food, behaviors just to keep a sense of self even if harmful. BUT the author suggests that the way out is NOT to point out this back-firing self-sabotage but rather than the critic (the partner that is “right”) must stop ALL attempts at negotiation and suggestion. Oh crap.

Struggle as I might, this hit home. I might pride myself on not coaching table manners or correcting grammar or commenting on the way he records in the checkbook, but I have this other teensy thing I want to control: how he communicates with his ex-wife.

So folks I’m asking for your help: for 21 days—the magical time to change a habit—I am committing to not talking about HER. If he mentions her I will use my AlAnon “Oh” and my AlAnon, “huh”. I will not diagnosis her, I will not interpret her, I will not suggest how he might best communicate, negotiate or manage her.

I’ll keep track here of how I do, but please weigh in to help me if this hits home for you.
Anyone willing to give up your “fatal flaw” issue for 21 days along with me?

“Naked impulse to control”, indeed. Who me?

Tuesday, February 02, 2010

Quit Playing God

“First of all, we had to quit playing God.”

--Bill W.

There is the heart of recovery.
And, yes, the very hardest part of this whole thing.
Quit playing God.
Simple but not easy.