Friday, June 28, 2013

Mychal Judge's Serenity Prayer

Last week I was in a meeting on Cape Cod and a man named Richard spoke about a version of the Serenity Prayer that he learned from Father Mychal Judge. Mychal was a Franciscan and the Chaplain of the New York City Fire Department and he was, sadly, the first fatality in the 9/11 tragedy at the World Trade Center.

The prayer goes like this:

God take me where you want me to go.
Let me meet who you want me to meet.
Help me to say what you want me to say
And keep me out of your way.

That is a prayer for clarity and surrender. And it’s simple. Now I have it in my wallet and in my daily planner.

Monday, June 24, 2013

Take a Deep Breath and Read This Article

Women in recovery and women and alcohol and Moms Who Need Wine. Here is an article that we are going to have to talk about. The link below is to a feature article in Sunday's Wall Street Journal about women who drink--and drink too much. There is a lot of good info here on demographic and behavioral trends, and there is great info on metabolism and physiology and there is some upsetting info about AA.

As I read this article I was nodding along until I got to the part about AA and them I thought, "Oh we go." Not that the author is wrong in any way--yes indeed there is Thirteenth Stepping and there are felons and criminal in AA. We know that. We just don't--for the most part--focus on that. So it's very uncomfortable to read about the less than perfect side of AA. The old saying is quite accurate: "We are not saints."

That is no excuse for tolerating the mistreatment of newcomers or untoward behavior by anyone in or near our rooms, but this article is also a litmus test for the balance of your recovery. It's also a mini test of how monolithic your belief needs to be. When you have been around recovery a while you slowly learn that while AA may be your answer and my answer it is not everybody's answer and that just is OK. People get sober or modify their drinking with help from medication, meditation, church and God and strong family networks and many other sources of support. It's all OK.

Here's the article. Take a look. Talk about it with other recovering women.

More will be revealed.

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

HALT--It's Not Just for Beginners

Yesterday I sat in a meeting where the discussion was directed to newcomers. How to handle stress? What is self-care in recovery? I was eating mints to stave off my hunger and I was dizzy with tiredness from too many days on too many deadlines. When I drifted away from listening to the discussion I was in a reverie of “What I’m gonna say…” anger fantasies. And I felt very alone in all of this.

Luckily one speaker pierced my fog and I heard her say to the newcomer, “We have some simple advice and the acronym is HALT: never get too hungry, angry, lonely or tired.” And I heard her. And I thought, “I am a goner.” I had it all: hungry, anger, tired and so lonely too.

I came home and wrote it on a card. And then the hard part: What am I going to do about it? I decided to have a simple supper sooner rather than later, I worked through one of my deadlines and deferred the next one to today. The anger needs more processing and the lonely too needs conversation with other recovering people. But I’m keeping that H.A.L.T. note in front of me.

It sneaks up again and again.

Monday, June 17, 2013

25 Years of Bull Durham and Why Women Love It

Twenty-five years! It seems like yesterday that we saw Susan Sarandon tie Nuke to the bed and force feed him Walt Whitman. But it was twenty-five years ago this week that the romance began.

Bull Durham is the movie with Kevin Costner playing an aging catcher in the minor leagues. It’s a movie that appears to be about baseball life with the hopes and desperate desires of men who want to play ball for a living. And while it is seemingly a men’s movie with all the swearing, ass slapping and drinking and real life baseball lore, it is in fact THE all time best chick flick.

Yes, we love Kevin Costner from the first moment he arrives in the locker room wearing his navy blazer, rumpled white shirt and khakis that are the perfect shade of tan with a hint of olive. He’s a manly man who in the first 20 minutes gives the fabulous, if too artful, monologue about his beliefs which includes, “I believe in the cock, the pussy, the small of a woman’s back…that the novels of Susan Sontag are self-indulgent, overrated crap”, and which ends with his belief in “long, slow, deep, soft, wet kisses that last three days”.

Yes! You had us at “long, slow and deep”—and yes, at the Susan Sontag part too.

But it is a later scene that grabs every woman because we see something we really want.

“Do you want to dance?” Sarandon asks Costner, sitting in the kitchen late at night. He says yes, but surprises her by not by dancing but instead by sweeping all the food and dishes off the kitchen table onto the floor. He spins Sarandon onto that now empty table and they go at it.

Yes, what he does in that scene is part of it; we want a man to want us that much; we want a man who wants to make love a second time and on the kitchen table. We want that kind of passion. But, there is something bigger in that scene that is a woman’s dream come true.  What most women desire is not what Costner does, but what Sarandon does NOT do. As all of her dishes and the leftover food crash onto the floor Sarandon allows herself to be swept onto that table instead of diving for a broom, or a dish cloth and saying to her lover, “Hold on a second, I’ll clean up this mess and then meet you in the bedroom.”

No, she is in the moment and desiring this man and this sex more than she desires a clean floor and a neat kitchen. She wants the rapture of this man’s body even with cereal and milk oozing under the fridge. And she is not saying, “Oh dear God that was my mother’s china bowl.” Nope, she’s on that table having a ball.

Oh, to be that kind of woman. We assume the power is in the man, that to be taken so passionately would free us. But what we see in Bull Durham is a woman who CAN be taken. She is not thinking, “When did we last wash these sheets?” while a man is dutifully going at it.

Oh, we may wish for a partner to love us with such sweet abandon, but Susan Sarandon, in Bull Durham, shows us a woman who can abandon herself to pleasure 

Friday, June 14, 2013

Father's Day Forgiveness

In the book, Alcoholics Anonymous, Bill Wilson wrote, “Resentment is the number one offender.” You might expect the founder of AA to say that booze or too much drinking was the big problem. But no, Wilson, 20th century self-made philosopher and self-made alcoholic knew better. He continued in the same paragraph, “From resentment flows all forms of spiritual disease.

Most of us know that, but it’s hard to get unstuck when a good, juicy resentment takes hold of you, so I like this pithier saying: “Holding a resentment is like setting yourself on fire and hoping the other person dies of smoke inhalation.”

Resentment as a topic on Father’s Day? But of course!

All of us had fathers. And with today’s social changes---divorce and remarriage-- some of us have two or more, so there’s plenty of fuel for those fires. Our parents disappoint us and we, in our turn, disappoint our children. In some families the injuries are bad: fathers may abuse, abandon, deprive or neglect. What do you do when you smell the smoke?

The antidote to resentment is, of course, forgiveness. Perhaps that will be the theme for some sermons today and surely a forgiveness story will show up on the Hallmark Channel as well.  But life is not a made-for-TV movie so how do you save yourself from the heat of resentment?

I had to extinguish a fiery resentment that I carried for years about my Father. When I was young my Dad worked many hours, travelled a lot, left his kids with my mother who was addicted to Dexedrine, and then he died young. I had a big box of resentment matches and I struck them all over myself. I had this idea that I just didn’t get what I needed from my father. More than one therapist agreed that my “issues” did indeed come from that deprivation. That intellectual understanding helped me to a certain degree but it also functioned as dry tinder for my favorite fire.

Then a few years ago on a retreat I was telling my story and the retreat leader gave me a surprising bit of redirection. I was telling her how my Dad had maybe given me 30 to 40% of what I needed as a kid and, well, poor me and bad him. “Well, yes,” the retreat leader said, “He may have only given you 40% percent of what you needed but what if 40% was all he had?” (He was after all a man whose parents died when he was young, he had grown up in poverty and he’d never been given a minute of emotional resource he could rely on). “So, she continued, “When your Dad gave you that 40% he was really giving you 100% of what he had.”

It was like a bucket of cold water poured on my head.

To forgive does not mean to pardon, it means to let go. Jesus, another great teacher, said, “Forgive them for they know not what they do.” In his language, Aramaic, he used the word shaw for forgive; shaw means “to untie”.

So if like me you set yourself on fire with victim-approved matches --untie yourself today. Forgiveness makes a great Father’s day gift; You give it to yourself.

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Reminders to Me

I live in a surround of Post-its: Reminders, Affirmations, Things to think about.

Here are two that I wrote down a long time ago but still need to think about almost daily:

*What would detachment look like? Sound like? Think like? Feel like?


*What matters more: What people think of me? or Who I am and how I feel?

Yes, recovery never ends.