I loved the TV show Maude when I was a kid. I remember my mom telling me she could not stand Maude. I either didn't ask her why or didn't listen to the answer. I can watch Maude now and I understand why Mom didn't like Maude. Since I was way too young to understand any of what was happening on the show at the time, clearly I just liked Bea Arthur. Still, Mom worked really hard to keep me from becoming a "feminist."
I remember once in my late teens being at church (I'm pretty sure it was a business meeting) when there was a discussion about a stove. While I don't remember the details, I do remember that it was a men's committee that decided on the stove to purchase and then it was brought before the church for vote. It irked me that the men made the decision on a stove despite the fact it was the women who would be cooking on it. (Irony isn't always lost on me.) I bitched to Mom (and yes, it was bitching) who gently declared that the men are to make the decisions for the church. Or something to that effect. Which, really, why even bring anything up for a vote in front of the entire congregation if only the men get a say?
Clearly I'm still a bit perturbed about that.
I had a chat with a coworker where she stated that the major religions treat women poorly, to include Christianity. That is absolutely what you are going to get in Christianity when the men pick out the verses about women submitting and being quiet and ignore the ones where husbands are to love their wives as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for it. The women must obey, but the men don't have to practice sacrificial love. As I was making my coffee (before I got into any more discussions of any kind), it occurred to me why this might be such an issue.
To the woman he said,
“I will make your pains in childbearing very severe;
with painful labor you will give birth to children.
Your desire will be for your husband,
and he will rule over you.” - Genesis 3:16, NIV
Could it be that the male dominance packaged as "Biblical headship" is really just part of the curse? Because that's what Genesis 3:16 seems to say pretty plainly. "Your desire will be for your husband, and he will rule over you." Note that it does not say "Your desire will be to rule over your husband," or "Your desire will be for your husband's role." No, it says "Your desire will be for your husband." The same desire that wants Cain in Chapter 4. I think that desire is the one where we want our husband to be completely and utterly devoted to us above all else. To be our god.
"and he will rule over you." Guess what. He will be a god. Just not a good one. Because there is a side-effect to being taught that the man the head over his household without being taught what that really entails. He will anoint himself supreme ruler. He will start (or just continue) to believe that it's his way or the highway. He will not take any direction because he is the man and he is in charge and therefore he knows what's best. Without good counsel teaching him how to lead through service, he will become effectually a slave master who believes his wife exists to serve him.
I believe that is why abuse perpetuates and thrives in the more fundamentalist circles.
Paul speaks of marriage metaphorically as symbolizing the relationship between Jesus and the Church. Hence wives submit to their husbands as the Church to Jesus, and husbands love their wives even as Christ loves the Church and gave himself up for it. But I think we are missing a piece when we just leave it at that.
if we endure,
we will also reign with him. - 2 Timothy 2:12a
If we believe that Jesus is coming back for his bride, the Church, as he says, and that we will reign with him, then why wouldn't husbands and wives not jointly rule their household? After all, in marriage, two become one, not two become master and servant. And Jesus doesn't force his rule over his bride.
I am really struggling right now. When stuff hits the fan, it really hits the fan. I'm not struggling in isolation, though. I've shared with several close friends what is going on. I've even shared it with my co-workers because that morning I wasn't coming to work until my daughter was home, I felt I needed to tell them why.
I have been put into the position - again - where I have to step up and take charge. Only this time, I have had a little taste of sanity, and I can see how life has become unmanageable again. I've had enough of the insanity and uncertainty and dysfunction. I am now in a position where I am forced to make some big decisions, all of which are going to involve uncomfortable (at best) confrontation.
I also struggle with how much is too much to share publicly. I absolutely won't put this stuff on Facebook, but technically if I put it out here on my blog, I am putting on Facebook since I auto-publish to Facebook. There's also the little matter of not having shared what happened with family except for one cousin.
Above all, I don't want unsolicited advice nor do I want a big outpouring of sympathy. I've played my own role in the dysfunction that does not leave me a completely innocent victim. There has been complicity on my part in the past that enabled things to progress to the point they have. However, that does not mean that I must maintain status quo out of misguided duty whose purpose is to keep up appearances.
Sooner or later you can no longer hide the effects and consequences that accompany the disease of alcoholism and addiction. Then you are left with decisions on whether to let things continue to spiral in a way that sucks your family down with it or to protect the truly innocent from further harm from a disease none of you can control.
This is where I am. Facing a decision that I don't want to make. Do nothing knowing things are going to continue to get worse (as they have been) while sucking multiple people down, or I can take a stand with the knowledge that the stand itself has the potential for loss. Yet I keep hearing the voice of Spock, "The needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few - or the one."
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I hated that phrase. Because some people never seem to get to the "make it" point and just fake it. And they just fake it when it will benefit them in some way. They can talk the talk around the right people, but just don't seem to ever be able to personally apply it to their relationships with other people.
You know, hypocrites.
The other night, I was in a situation where I had to give a really brief version of my alcoholic story - what it was like, what happened, and what it's like now. I didn't really put any time into preparing for it even though I knew I would have to give it. I just let it largely flow spontaneously. As I listened to myself speaking (which one can do when one dissociates), I heard myself saying something that I had said before, but hadn't really heard.
"I knew how to pretend to live, but I didn't know how to live."
And that would be why "fake it 'til you make it" pissed me off so bad. I spent most of my life "faking it," but not ever "making it." From the outside it appeared I had it all together. And to an extent I did. But I was motivated by perfectionism; always striving for an unknown and/or unrealistic expectation of what success (professional, personal, and religious) really was.
Then my facade - my carefully constructed bubble of control - shattered.
7. Humbly asked Him to remove our shortcomings. - Alcoholics Anonymous, p. 59
At this point in working the steps, I was told that God might not remove all of them, and that He wouldn't necessarily do it right away. One of my character defects is impatience, so it was a given it wouldn't happen immediately. That doesn't mean He isn't capable of removing my defects. He is. But He isn't a genie that grants wishes the way we want it. He is a loving Father who knows and provides our NEEDS instead of our WANTS. I always want the easier, softer way.
I have found that my greatest growth comes through "suffering" rather than being handed to me.
And so, with the knowledge that that my request to have my shortcomings removed could be delayed or answered with "No," I was told to believe they would be removed regardless and until they are, "act as if they have been."
Fake it 'til you make it.
Finally, I realized the spirit behind it wasn't one of hypocrisy, it was one of faith and good will. Take, for instance, my insecurity. It has not been taken away yet. Left alone and allowed to "rule," my insecurity paralyzes me from making good decisions, or even any decision at all. Nothing gets done, status quo remains, and life becomes even more unmanageable.
But, I can "act as if" I am not insecure, and make a decision that is at best uncomfortable or at worst downright scary. As long as I don't make a rash decision without looking at the consequences (good and bad) or take way too long to look at every thing I think might go wrong, something amazing is going to happen whether or not the decision is the correct one.
I become less afraid to make a decision.
I become less insecure.
Sometimes the worst part of a decision is the fear of making the wrong decision. Not because you can always make the right decision, but because making a wrong decision reinforces how you think about yourself.
"I can't do anything right."
Those are products of false humility which is actually just an aspect of self-centered pride.
And they are lies.
The Lord is at hand; do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.
Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things. What you have learned and received and heard and seen in me—practice these things, and the God of peace will be with you.
(Philippians 4:5-9 ESV)
Motives matter. Motive is why "fake it 'til you make it" can actually work. Motive is where you have to be totally honest when you ask yourself why you are acting on a "good" behavior. Are you trying to fool other people into thinking you have it all together, or are you simply just trying to do the next right thing because it is the right thing regardless of your feelings?
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"Can I handle the seasons of my life?" - Stevie Nicks
I may have mentioned this before, but do you know what happens when you peel an onion?
I talked about why I was going to stop taking my antidepressant, but I really had no idea how that was going to play out. Despite weaning off over 4 weeks, I still had some significant withdrawals.
But the crying.
What are the odds that in your first week off your meds, you are going to be triggered. Repeatedly. About something you did NOT want to deal with so soon. (Or at all.)
I definitely didn't expect to be triggered at church.
I knew I was going to break down this past Sunday. I had looked at the service lineup, and texted with my friend Stacey who was singing.
I had no idea I would have such an ugly cry meltdown.
After the sermon, we had communion. But not just communion. We had the opportunity to be anointed with oil, and prayed over with laying on of hands.
I walked up to Pastor Nate a complete wreck. "I can't even word." I could barely get out more than that because of the sobbing. But I didn't really have to because he knows my story. We stood there in front of everyone, he praying over me, and me sobbing.
And I was okay with that.
Is anyone among you suffering? Let him pray. Is anyone cheerful? Let him sing praise. Is anyone among you sick? Let him call for the elders of the church, and let them pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord. And the prayer of faith will save the one who is sick, and the Lord will raise him up. And if he has committed sins, he will be forgiven. Therefore, confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person has great power as it is working. (James 5:13-16 ESV)
I then took the cup (because the bread ain't gluten free), and sat back down.
I sobbed uncontrollably some more.
And it was okay. And it is a big breakthrough.
I wasn't allowed to cry when I was a kid. My crying was categorized as either "having a fit" or "showing my ass." So I learned how to hold it in, and not cry. And then I medicated/self-medicated so I wouldn't cry.
But crying isn't something to be ashamed of.
I've been praying for healing. Family and friends have been praying for my healing.
Crying is part of that healing.
All I have to do is let it happen.
And it's okay.
I've done a few things lately that I swore I'd never do. Like plucking and shaping my eyebrows. I wore my bushy, manly brows like a badge earned from railing against conforming to western feminine culture. But then I decided to get my eyebrow pierced, and one of my coworkers talked me into eyebrow maintenance.
And I haven't gotten the piercing. Yet.
I also said I would never get back up to 200 pounds. But I did.
It's not the number on scale so much as the clothes that are no longer fitting, or at least not fitting comfortably. And the reason my spare tire got reinflated is that I stopped eating healthy and running regularly. I stopped being disciplined about my physical health.
It's a discipline issue.
I was reminded that I know how to eat healthy, and I know how to exercise regularly. I've done it before. I lost 40 pounds, and felt great. (Physically) I can do it again, but I have to discipline myself to do it.
I made myself a schedule. That would be another thing I wasn't ever going to do. Oh, I've been all about putting appointments on the calender, but not planning out my days like I did.
Because it seemed legalistic.
I stood at my whiteboard and wrote down everything I have to do every day (critical tasks) and at what times. Like work and sleep. I made those non-negotiables. Although even that is within reason because of Thursday night rehearsal. I'm not getting home before 9pm from rehearsal, and therefore won't be in bed by 9pm. But that's also (normally) only twice a month.
I then listed out essentials like church and meetings. I don't have to do these like I have to go to work, but I am making them non-negotiables nonetheless. My spiritual and emotional health are dependent upon those.
Then I worked in "me time." These are also non-negotiable because 1) I need alone time to recharge because I am an introvert, 2) I need time for self-care (exercise, meditation, reading), and 3) I have interests that I am going to work on that I need alone time for - like writing.
I even scheduled social time even though church, meetings, and the running club constitute social time also. But it's a more specific social time like coffee/dinner with friends.
All because in order to do everything I want and need to do for my health, I need some serious discipline. I know me. I know what I do without structure, and it is largely unproductive.
And so now I am telling myself that I should not say, "You will never be able to get your life manageable because you will never be organized."
I've never really tried.
The DragonLady doesn't like crowds. That's why she doesn't do concerts. Crowds freak her out. Also, she doesn't like to pay the price concert tickets cost these days. But you know what? I went to see Fleetwood Mac last month paying way more than I wanted to pay for tickets in the rafters.
Prior to the beginning of the show, I would look at that and get that feeling in my stomach as if I was going to pitch forward and fall to my death. Because I also don't do heights.
That's my "this is too high" face. Note that we weren't all the way at the top but close.
Once they came out and started playing, though, I did not notice the height at all. It was a heck of a good show! I sat there singing along with every single song as only someone who has spent a LOT of time listening to Fleetwood Mac can do. I screamed. I yelled. I was surprised I could talk the next day.
[caption id="attachment_2316" align="aligncenter" width="960"] Dreams unwind. Love's a state of mind.[/caption]
[caption id="attachment_2317" align="aligncenter" width="600"] Tusk[/caption]
They were so fantastic! Lindsey Buckingham didn't leave the stage until just before the encore, and then just during the drum solo in World Turning. I know he is the youngest member of the band, but he is still mid-60's rocking a 2.5 hour show.
This was the finale, which I obviously didn't take from the rafters. Someone with much better seats than I took this. Also, I used up my free space recording Gold Dust Woman. Which I haven't uploaded.
Pain is baffling. It is pretty dang frustrating to spend several years trying to get healthy, changing my entire lifestyle through exercise and a healthy diet - and then getting sober - to find myself struggling with chronic pain. I even went so far as to question my sanity. After all, how many health issues can I share with Petra before I begin to wonder how much is in my head. On the other hand, when I really think about it, I can see that the issues started way before we ever met. And since I don't believe in coincidence, there must be a reason why we were put in each other's lives. And yeah, I over-think and tend to over-dramatize. Whatevs.
Talking to a couple of friends last week, I wondered aloud if maybe I've had this pain for a while and just didn't know it because I was self-medicating. It was pointed out to me that because I have been sober for over a year now that I would naturally be more attuned to what is going on with my body. So I started thinking back trying to find a time in my life when I was dealing with a lot of pain, and in my very late 20's and very early 30's, I had a lot of knee, back, and wrist pain. The Air Force doctors and physical therapists couldn't find a reason for any of the pain, though it was said that the wrist pain was likely pre-carpal tunnel. I realized that I stopped having so much widespread pain when my drinking ramped back up.
I did a little internet research and a study was done on a connection between fibromyalgia with depression and alcohol use. While the study was not to be taken completely conclusively, it showed that low and moderate use of alcohol tended to lesson the fibromyalgia pain. I went back and forth between high moderate and low heavy drinking. This could have had an impact on my pain level. Petra says my symptoms scream fibromyalgia, and I had some pain last week that definitely fit that category.
My dad claimed to have nearly every disease or disorder known to man. I know he had allergy problems and Type II diabetes. I remember a couple of times hearing him say, "I think I have depression." I do not doubt that at all. I also have heard him talking about his recovery from his ruptured appendix, and he described an incident that sounded exactly like I feel when I have a panic attack. He also claimed to have "myalgia." It's a broadstroke disorder of muscle pain. Fibromyalgia falls under that broad disorder. And as I connect dots again, my mother-in-law told me that he had a problem with pills for a while. If he had pain like I have pain, I'm sure he did have a pain pill addiction because at that time he had a highly technical and physical job that would be hard to do while in chronic widespread pain.
Last week I found out something about my dad's childhood that I never knew. I didn't get great detail nor did I ask for more detail. I learned what I needed to know which explained why he acted the way he did. He had a really rough childhood. The one aspect of it I never knew was the one that I was able to take and finally feel connected to him. Sadly, nearly 8 years after his death, but I understand. I have friends, family, programs, and mental health support that he didn't have. Not that he didn't have support of friends and family. Especially family. But I have been granted awareness that he was either never granted or chose to remain in denial. And so, I think it is no coincidence that I find all this out now - after I'm sober. I know where I stand with fibromyalgia if that is indeed the reason for my pain. I also am acutely aware of my self-destructive and addictive tendencies. Okay, maybe not acutely. But aware. I don't want pain management. I want pain elimination. If elimination is not possible, well, I suppose that will be another blow to my self-reliance. ;)
It seems like I turned into a girl overnight...at 45 years old. It's the weirdest thing yet not something I want to fight. First it was just wearing makeup, but then I suddenly decided I wanted to wear dresses. Yes. The girl who hated, HATED, wearing dresses as a kid likes to wear dresses now. How does that even happen? And sure enough, when I wear them to work, everyone thinks I have an interview. And no, I don't have an interview.
What I do have is a different attitude and I can only assume it is related to sobriety and working out a lot of issues affecting my view of myself. I still have a long way to go, but it's amazing how much easier it is to travel just one day at a time. I was reading earlier, and I had gotten to a chapter with a title that included the phrase "return to sanity." It led to a short office discussion in which I stated that returning to sanity insinuates that you actually had sanity at some point. I will also point out that I was reading about home organization not any 12 step material. Although, the last chapter of the book referenced the founding of AA which had me look at the book from a different perspective.
Regarding sanity and it's role in organization or lack thereof, I also had a conversation recently regarding the disorganization of my house. I've known my house was out of control for years, but I never really saw it as it really was. Just as I took action on my own personal appearance, I have begun to take action on the appearance of my house. Truth be told, it has looked like a couple of drunks have been living in it. The kids' rooms are complete wrecks because they learned housekeeping skills from a couple of drunks who made minimal (if any) effort to keep a clean and orderly house.
Given the state of our house and my change in attitude, I decided that the house is getting cleaned up one way or another. I had purchased 30 Days to a Clean and Organized House a few months ago, and with that as a guide, went after my family. Because, you know, if I'm the only one working and there are 3 other people living in that house, it should be clean. CLEAN! I gave the kids a week to get their rooms cleaned up or else I was turning the internet off. Chad asked for an extra day, but he got it done and his room was by far the worst in the house. In the meantime, I cleaned up my office, the landing upstairs, the master bathroom, and got a big chunk of the master bedroom done. James got the kitchen deep cleaned, and a lot of the living room. The only reason Jamie still has internet is because I cannot currently remember the admin password to the router.
"Our whole attitude and outlook upon life will change." - Alcoholics Anonymous.
Finding a new way of life - and living it - will change your attitude, and the way you live life. Miracles happen, and promises come true.
Last week was one of those weeks where there was just too much. It's been a while since I had a panic attack. I had 2 last week. I guess maybe I needed a reminder that there is no such thing as an instant fix for one's issues that are so deeply rooted. I had gotten pretty confident that I had finally grown up emotionally, and then I talked to my mom, and she largely couldn't talk back. She would try, but then get frustrated when she couldn't say what she was thinking and say, "I'm just crazy, crazy, crazy!" I wanted to argue and yell, "NO, YOU'RE NOT CRAZY!" But I know the futility of arguing with someone who has lost the ability to reason and retain. So I would just say, "You know, it's okay. It's going to be okay." And it is. It just doesn't feel like it.
I had a uterine ultrasound the next day. I made light of it because I really wasn't overly concerned. In fact, I was hoping the results would show the need for a hysterectomy. Turned out to be 2 benign ovarian cycts. And must be on the left because I don't think he ever found my right ovary. I thought at the time that he couldn't see it because the wand was puncturing a lung and my ovaries aren't that high. Not that I exaggerate. ;) But all joking aside, as I was laying there I felt the beginning of the first panic attack. I got home to find no one there, and in a few minutes the rest of the family returned from a trip to Lowes picking up a new dishwasher. James kept asking me questions as he was swapping them out about what we did when we installed the original. "I don't know. All I remember is we fought." He kept asking and I kept giving that same answer because even though the circumstances were completely different, I was freaking out inside over the memory. Finally he said, "This isn't like last time, and I'm not going to yell at you." I responded, "I know. You're sober and I'm sober. But I never dealt with that event." I finally managed to calm down enough to switch out the wiring which, ironically, was the thing that turned the original install into such a huge fight. And everything went so smoothly. It was amazing. Yet, I still showed up to a meeting with my sponsor later in a panic attack. And thank goodness we were meeting that night!
But then the next day, I got double-teamed at work and told to grow a spine. I turned right back into an emotional 5 year old and shut down. Another thing happened the next day at work that triggered another panic attack on the way home. I remember thinking then, "I'll wake up with a migraine tomorrow." I did get to meet the Fonz that night which was just too cool. It would have been cooler if he'd held my hand like he did Petra. Just sayin'. And sure enough, I woke up with a migraine.
I had an appointment Saturday morning that I wasn't going to let a migraine stop. It was something I didn't want to do, but I could come up with no good reason not to do it, and God didn't close that door. We had agreed on 45 min. I thought that would be too long, but we talked for like 3 hours. I don't think I have ever felt that comfortable being that open and sharing with someone I barely knew. We both agreed that it was a God thing. To top it off, though I hadn't yet taken anything for my migraine because I didn't want to be half stoned out while there, there was no pain that whole time. I had trouble with speaking words, but that's not unusual. After I left though? My head nearly exploded on me. Especially when I stopped at Food Lion. Another God thing.
And yesterday morning, I stood in the shower and broke down. I had that huge ugly cry that I needed last week after talking to my mom. I wondered at the time even as the sobs wracked through my body why I have such a hard time surrendering to grief and sorrow to this day. Why can't I let go and be vulnerable around other people and especially my close friends and family? I mean, I know why. But why do I hang onto it after it had long since stopped being useful? I know the answer to that too. It's frustrating.
I always thought I knew what faith was even though I couldn't explain it. Oh, I could quote scripture about it, but I just thought I understood it. That being said, I still don't completely understand it, and can no more explain it other than by telling you what it isn't.
I played with the worship team at church a few weeks ago, and our only rehearsal as a group was Sunday morning before the first service. They were all easy songs to play, and I had played all but one before, so I felt fairly confident that I could play without any major screwups. That confidence did not keep me from losing my place in Cornerstone in every single service. Even though I did just fine in rehearsal. However, a couple weeks prior we had done a song called Relentless, and in one of the last choruses, there are 2 separate parts being sung. The first time we did it 2 weeks prior, I was one of the 2 vocalists to be singing the second part. We hadn't had a rehearsal before that Sunday either, and since I hadn't practiced it, I missed the cue every.single.time. This time I had it. One of the ladies pointed out during rehearsal that she could hear me and I had it down. I said, "I practiced that so hard last week!" And I did. I put more practice time into nailing the vocals on that one chorus than guitar and vocals combined on the other songs. This led to a discussion about faith, and how faith isn't faith until it's put in action. You have to work it.
And that's when I said, "It works if you work it."
I first heard that phrase in Al-Anon in reference to the Al-Anon program. Which is nearly identical to the AA program from which it was derived. It was about a year and a half ago that I stepped into Al-Anon, and I can say with absolute certainty, I didn't work the Al-Anon program. I went to meetings. I read the literature. I didn't call anyone even though I had 2 phone lists. I was my own sponsor. So I stayed perpetually on the 1st step - "We admitted we were powerless over alcohol - that our lives had become unmanageable." I knew my life was unmanageable. There was no doubt about that. Powerless, though, I was not. Or so I thought.
I remember right before I started going to Al-Anon, I went to an open AA meeting with my husband. After the meeting he asked me what I thought and I said, "That is what church should be like. That is living out James 5:16."
James 5:16 English Standard Version (ESV)
Therefore, confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person has great power as it is working.
I am convinced that is the only way we can bear one another's burdens.
Galatians 6:2 English Standard Version (ESV)
Bear one another's burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ.
This is the essence of love. And it was love that got and kept me sober. A group of drunks who loved me until I could love myself. Strangers who walked with me one day at a time encouraging me to keep coming back. The woman I picked out to be my sponsor that I didn't have the nerve to actually ask - who reached out to me and helped me pluck up the courage I had sat on for 2 weeks. God doing for me what I could not do for myself. But I still had to work at it.
I had to go to meetings. I had to read my literature. I had to call my sponsor - especially when I didn't want to. I had to listen to her tell me what I didn't want to hear and do what she suggested whether I wanted to or not. Sometimes she pissed me off. But I followed her. I followed her because she had already been down this road and knew the way. I followed her because God told me he had been sending people to help me when I cried out to him asking why he hadn't helped me, and therefore I chose to trust that he put her in my life. I work the program, and it works even though I don't work it perfectly.
Ephesians 2:8-10 English Standard Version (ESV)
For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast. For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works,which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.
Faith isn't something we manufacture ourselves. It's not a bargaining means to get God to grant our wishes. It is given to us to do what God would have us do whether his will is for us to act or be still. He gives us faith for His purpose and His glory. That is why it works if you work it. Because it's not about you.