Saturday, January 30, 2010

An Artist A Day

I went to New York City on Thursday. After my business meeting I made a side trip to the Hauser & Wirth gallery at 32 East 69th Street to see the exhibit of Ida Applebroog’s drawings that I’d read about in the New York Times.

The drawings are terrific –fragile, exciting, simple and beautiful. And so is her story. Now in her 70’s Appplebroog began making art in her twenties. But for many years she was also a wife and mother living unhappily in San Diego. The catalog article says that she was depressed and in order to claim a tiny slice of artistic life for herself in the midst of raising kids she, each night, after kids were in bed and she had a tiny bit of time alone, she locked herself in the bathroom, sat in the tub and drew in her sketchbook. For more than 150 nights she drew a self portrait—a quick sketch—of her crotch. It was an exercise to keep herself drawing.

30 years later, kids grown and Ida back to New York City, boxes from storage are unpacked and there are the drawings of labia. They were never interned for display but when unpacked and seen as a group it was impressive. Also impressive were the water stains—unintentional—from storage, but also connecting these drawings with their original setting, the bath tub.

The drawings are now collected and displayed. Some of them were scanned and manipulated to become walls of a paper house also part of the installation at Hauser & Wirth.

It is a powerful exhibit. A woman who kept herself alive as an artist and who even in the hardest times did a tiny bit of art each day—a few lines, a sketch of herself, her body. Here is libido in the clearest sense. The body that gave birth also kept the art and artist alive.

One a day, a tiny bit, a moment’s investment, a private sketch and a life in art now celebrated in public.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

A Punishing God?

Many gifts in “Lit”, Mary Karr’s new book. Here is one that helped me.

Karr describes talking to her spiritual director about her concept of God. Karr realizes that she has many times felt abandoned or punished by God. She says—and this is what hit home for me—“How is that possible; I have no childhood experience of a punishing God?”

I’ve said that same thing. I grew up in a very “God is Love” church, my parents disdained any hint of fire or fear where God was concerned, so I have for a long time been baffled by my own ideas about God.

But Karr’s spiritual director responds to her saying this: “We often strap onto God the mask of whoever hurt us as children. If you’ve been neglected, God seems cold; if you’ve been bullied, he’s a tyrant. If you’re filled with self-hatred, then God is a monster making inventor.”

Bingo! My fear of God wasn’t of any God I was taught about in Church or Sunday school, but I did dress up God in the garb of my unpredictable speed-addicted mother and my kindly, well-intentioned but un-protecting father. Even as they swore that God loved me, my God was dressed in their behaviors toward me.

Now the task is to undress my God. And maybe pick Him a new role model from my loving, caring recovery community.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

More Mary Karr

I’m re-reading the wonderful new memoir, Lit, by Mary Karr. Also celebrating her recent nomination for a National Book Award. Today I realized that here is God and recovery at work in the world: Karr is a sensational poet and with the nomination and awards she is receiving for “Lit” many people will read the book on that basis alone. Many people who don’t think they need to know anything about recovery or addiction or alcoholism or being an adult child of an alcoholic will read her book and they will love it for the sheer beauty, the poetic language, the laugh out loud gut-busting humor and the sensational storytelling. And while that is happening they will get a view of how a 12-step program can change and even create a life. And who knows; that new perspective could even save a life someday.

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Your Own Higher Power

In AA we talk about choosing a Higher Power or creating one that works for you. People choose the God of their childhood—or adult-- faith. Some use their 12 step group as the power greater than themselves and others recommend using the concept of G.ood O.rderly D.irection if a Higher Being just doesn’t work.

Now I’m reading a great new book that gives us the means and the intellectual support to choose the God of our understanding. No pastel prettiness for spiritual toddlers here but a lot of intellectual food that takes grown-up teeth to chew on. The book is, “Beyond Faith: Our Role in Transforming God” by William Penick.

In his book Penick takes apart the idea of faith and of gods that are too big and indifferent or that are too small and ineffectual. He makes a compelling—and strongly supported case—that we can find (create) a God that is plausible and relevant. This is a book for spiritual seekers willing to tackle big ideas and some theological and intellectual history, but it’s worth it to get a God that works for you.

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Tiger in Rehab

Current events and celeb gossip are testing my belief in rehab. The New York Post has photos of Tiger Woods at sex addiction rehab in Mississippi. It’s Patrick Carnes place—Carnes the long time expert and leader in the field of sexual addiction. But reading the article it appears that Tiger has cut a special celebrity deal: his own cottage that was rehabbed at a cost of $100,000 before Tiger moved in; permission to miss group and other recovery activities; not having to do chores like make his bed and share the housekeeping of the place—a standard “humble making” activity at any rehab center.

So is Tiger really in rehab or is he doing the requisite number of days as mea culpa? Is he trying to rehab his golf and public life? Is he, as some say, just trying to appease wife Elin? He wouldn’t be the first addict who went to rehab to get out of a jackpot—but usually the process of breaking down and building back up has some effect despite the motivation.

Here’s what bothers me more than Tiger playing games. If the Post and Vanity Fair stories are true, then Patrick Carnes is playing games with treatment and cutting special deals for one special resident. And isn’t specialness part of the addiction? The whole terminal uniqueness thing?

Tiger is quite special as a golfer and maybe he got confused thinking that made him special as a human being, husband and man. Can’t blame him for trying; all addicts will try to get a deal and a pass. But if the treatment center is enabling and buying into the Tiger Star thing we’re in big trouble in 12-step land.

Monday, January 18, 2010

Cut the Resentment

Control is connected to resentment and to difficult people in our lives. Last week a friend gave me this practice to try with any person who challenges us. What she told me to do was:

Early in the morning or late at night—when you can imagine that the other person is sleeping—visualize your higher or best self who is wise and compassionate, and in your imagination allow your higher self to visit that person. See your higher self using a pair of beautiful golden or jeweled scissors and cutting the cord that attaches you to that person. See the cord connecting you fall away and then bless that person and see your higher self return home to you. Allow the blessing to fall on your self too and thank your higher self and your higher power.

Do this visualization as many times as you can over two to three weeks and you will find that your resentment, obsession and struggle with that person will lessen or disappear.

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Control Issues

Today I am thinking about control. . .

Here is what Karen Casey, one of my favorite recovery writers, has to say:

“Our lives are not, nor were they ever, secure or content as the result of someone else’s actions. Our lives become peaceful and secure in direct proportion to our awareness of the unconditional love of God.”

And this:

“A codependent person is one who has let another person’s behavior affect her and who is obsessed with controlling that person’s behavior.”

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Ask the Right Questions

1. Is this an act of faith or an act of fear?
2. Is this an act of self-love or an act of self-sabotage?
3. Will this choice add to my life energy or rob me of my energy?
4. Does this choice empower me or disempower me?
5. Am I choosing from my divinity or my humanity?
6. Will this choice bring me long-term fulfillment or bring me short term gratification?
7. Am I standing in my power or trying to please someone?

from The Right Questions, by Debbie Ford

Sunday, January 10, 2010

The Tree of Life

In most forms of shamanism the sound of the drum generates the trance state in which the shaman travels back and forth among the three realms: The Heavens, the Earth and the Underworld. The interconnectedness of these three realms is universally represented by The Tree of Life, which is rooted in the underworld, bears fruit on the earth, and reaches with its topmost branches into the heavens.

--from “When Women Were Drummers” by Layne Redmond

Thursday, January 07, 2010

Marriage and Weddings

I loved Elizabeth Gilbert, “Eat. Pray. Love” Read it, listened to it: God and pleasure and faith and fear and overcoming fear. Yes it helped that she had a big house to sell and a huge book advance. But Ok that does not counter the humor and good grace of her book. I especially loved when she had everyone in the universe co-sign her prayer to have her divorce end and to have peace with her ex. And that water tower scene in India. Again turning that ex over to God—higher selves meeting and releasing.

In this week’s New Yorker magazine a review of Gilbert’s second memoir, “Committed” about marriage and reluctantly marrying the man she fell in love with at the end of book one. At the end of the book review this great line:

“There is good reason to end such stories with weddings, buoyant celebrations of love. Because what follows a wedding is a marriage. And marriage is an institution, not a party.”

Wednesday, January 06, 2010

The Key of Willingness

Willingness feels like the word this week. It is another piece of brilliance in our program. After all, self help has always been about change and this time of year with New Year’s resolutions we try to stop eating sugar and go to the gym and be on time and not fight with our kids. But those are absolutes so of course they don’t work which makes us feel bad so we more easily succumb to the things we hope to avoid. But AA says “pray for willingness”. Willingness turns the key in the lock of change and when the door opens just slightly God or Higher Power can do the rest—and in a sense, after that, it’s none of our business.

So this week I am reminding myself that willingness is the key. Wearing a key is a great reminder so I’ve strung a great antique skeleton key on a satin cord to wear around my neck. It makes a chic necklace and landing right at my solar plexus I can feel this key of willingness near my heart and heart chakra all day long.

Tuesday, January 05, 2010

Tiny Baby Willingness

Yesterday I found myself wanting him to not like her. Wanting him to not have memories, to not have feelings, to not have loved someone he loved a long time ago. Crazy, I know, but there I was. Knowing it was crazy didn’t help me until I saw—I saw—that my focus on him and her kept me stuck on him and her—and therefore not living or thinking about my own life. Even at that I still wasn’t completely ready to let go. So I prayed. A teeny tiny prayer for a teeny tiny bit of willingness to let go. And I felt the most miniscule, tiny, imperceptible but real, teeniest, baby shift in my heart.

It was enough that I knew it was possible to change. I remembered that the book says we need just the tiniest bit of willingness to open the door. So here I am only barely sincere, hardly open-hearted, but with the teensiest bit of willingness to let go and to allow myself to be changed.


Sunday, January 03, 2010

Happy Introvert Day

Ahhh, January 3. The day that introverts get to breathe a sigh of relief. We can come out of hiding; it’s safe to answer the phone, and to stop pretending we feel the flu coming on. Hip Hip Hooray! The holidays are over.

Yes, from mid-December through New Year’s Day, those of us with an introverted nature live in a state of perpetual dread. The weeks of office parties, neighborhood potlucks and open houses drain all our energy. But today we can relax; we made it through.

I speak from experience. I am an introvert. It surprises most people because I’m outgoing and friendly and, in fact, very far from shy, but I prefer one person and one conversation at a time.

I fought this for years, always trying to be someone else. I made myself go to parties; I tried to fix what I thought was “wrong” with me. It didn’t help that other people would press, “But you’re so good with people” as if being introverted meant living on the dark side. But I finally got it.

This is also one of the blessings of being older. Along with the wrinkles comes a, “What you see is what you get” self-acceptance, or perhaps for introverts it’s, “Who you don’t see is what you get”. It is a great relief to stop trying to be who you’re not.

But it’s no wonder that we introverts are sometimes defensive. Seventy-five percent of the population is extraverted; we’re outnumbered three-to-one, and the American culture tends to reward extraversion, while being disdainful and suspicious of reflection and solitude.

I’ve learned to spot us though. We’re the folks walking toward a festive house saying, “How long do we have to stay?” Or we’re the ones in the center of the room assessing other’s interactions, and slowly backing toward the door. Introverts crave meaning, so party chitchat feels like sandpaper to our psyche.

Here’s what introverts are not: We’re not afraid and we’re not shy. Introversion has little to do with fear or reticence. We’re just focused, and we prefer one-on-one because we like to listen and we want to follow an idea all the way through to another interesting idea. Consequently small talk annoys us. So does pretending to be happy or excited or anything that we’re not.

Many great leaders are introverts and I think that many of our better presidents have been introverts: Lincoln, Carter and the John Adams—both father and son. No, maybe I’m not being totally fair, but life isn’t fair to introverts. Introverted kids are pressured to “speak up” and “make friends” or told they’re not leaders. We’re hounded to “be more outgoing” and tortured with invitations that begin, “Why don’t we all…” No thanks, we don’t want to do anything that involves “we” and “all”; we prefer to visit you, just you, and not a dozen other people.

The philosopher Pascal wrote, “The sole cause of man’s unhappiness is that he does not know how to stay quietly in his room.” Introverts do. So let’s make January 2nd, Happy Introvert Day. We’ll be quiet and happy. As a bonus, January’s weather is on our side.

You say it might snow? Oh darn, I guess I’ll have to stay home.