************************************Denial covers the pain of the past * A blanket over the world * Lift a corner * Don't be afraid * Your life awaits you*************************************

Tuesday, August 16, 2011


Do you feel it coming? Change is imminent. It’s the cool breeze on an otherwise hot August day. It’s the colorful ripeness of harvest. It’s the sale sign in department stores overstocked with backpacks and loose-leaf paper; trendy jeans and sports gear; this-year’s-Disney lunch boxes and impossibly slim calculators with incongruously thick instruction books.

Chicago has only two seasons – Winter and road construction. Phase one of this summer’s road work is yet to be complete, but in a familiar mad-dash attempt to get every street and highway up to the level of functional, thousands of new orange signs and cones have appeared in the last week. This coincides with the increase in traffic which accompanies the sudden/obvious realization that the kids are going to need new everything for school.

The lazy pace of the “dog days” is overlaid with detours, stress, and apologies to the dentist, the barber, the woman who gives the sport’s physicals so the doctor can do more important things, and the coach who has set up practices every day of the two weeks leading up to the first day of school and who can’t understand how - when he is giving up HIS summer – we can’t just get there on time.

I stare through the sliding door, noticing the faded colors of our deck furniture as they sit under the same intense sun they’ve enjoyed (endured?) for months. Beyond them, the sky is summer-blue, the trees are dark and full, the bushes are overgrown, uneven, in need of trimming (again) and the determined weeds are thriving while the flowers in my garden are waving a white flag.

The nearness of the coming shift is blaring in my head, much like the car alarm which erupted yesterday, in the middle of my session with C. My sons are heading back to college – one for his second year and one for his last. My younger daughter and the exchange student who lives with us will be heading back to high school. My older daughter – who has gone through changes of her own this summer - is a married woman now. Tomorrow I will head up to see her for the first time since the wedding.

This goes on around me, seen through new eyes – more focused, more certain, more aware. Emotions come to me so much more easily now. They engulf me like the humid August air and I succumb to them in a way my lilies give in to the milkweed. Okay. I'll make room. You have a right to be here, too.

Feelings wash over me. I wade into anger, tread sorrow, dive into fear and come up for relief. I wonder at their intensity and then again at their brevity. Before I'm used to one state of being, another is on upon me.

Nothing lasts forever – not anxiety, not despair, not the hundred-and-twenty-dollar-guaranteed-for-life backpack my son has loaded with six-hundred-dollars worth of textbooks (bought used, online, at a fraction of the original cost – what a deal). The cyclical nature of everything is proof that when I find myself in the darkest places, I know I will find my way out.

Nothing lasts forever = hope.

I will find the light, immerge, and once again pull peace/joy/gratitude gratefully into my lungs. When I come up from the depths, the air will always be there.

Change is the constant, yet we imagine life in stages, in the spaces in-between. We pause in the calm that exists after one breeze and before the next, in the momentary stillness when one waves has crashed over us and another is approaching, and we think this is life. For all the songs we've sung and poems we've written about the journey, we still think the destination - the stopping point - is where we're meant to be.

The reality is the opposite.

The pendulum’s swing between day and night
The rotating seasons of each year and each life
That's the meat we are meant to chew and savor in the breakroom of life.

Those moments in between are merely an offering from God to step back, to take in what we’ve learned before it’s time to move forward again. In that stillness we live outside the change that is life and have the opportunity to connect with the eternal. Motionless instants – few and elusive – hold within them the reality of our souls.

Illusion = a stagnant pond
Truth = the river of life
Lessons swirl around us and promise is only a ripple away.

Yesterday, C loaned me a book by Dr. Christine Northrup. The book is called, “The Wisdom of Menopause”. The book holds promise. It speaks of new beginnings, of goals and focus of a different kind.
Change is scary, but the fear is fleeting and making it through can bring valid and worthwhile gains. When I look at change as opportunity - as movement toward and not away from – I'm able to wait with anticipation for the next wave to come.

When I “entered womanhood” (this phrase in itself an ugly misnomer as I am fairly certain I am not now leaving womanhood) I was angry, fearful, and sad. I felt the loss of some piece of who I am as a veil of instinct fell over me. I grew used to the idea that this is who I was. I was here to create life, to nest and nurture. That was how I was meant to find fulfillment… and I did. Having and raising children has been an incredible ride and I wouldn’t trade it for anything. Without that very necessary instinctual drive I would likely never have brought these amazing people into the world.

With that work nearly done, a growing sense of loss has had me searching for myself once again. I felt pulled in other directions, but also felt guilty. It seemed wrong to be focused more on myself than my children and my husband. I was confused. What was my purpose? Who was I if I was not taking care of others?

I stand in that space, in-between - in that little bit of peace before the next wave crashes, and I feel lost. I feel the tide's aproach, the strong undertow giving it away. I plant my feet, legs wide, arms outstretched, to steady myself as best I can. I’m pulled, swayed, lifted, kicking and flailing and finding the ground again and again.

It's hard work. Gradually, I stop fighting. I lift my feet from the sandy bottom and float, bobbing.

Eyes closed, I let it come. I connect with the universe, the terror of the unknown quickening my heart. Inside - deep, hidden - I search for that eternal stillness and when (not if) I find it, it calms me like a drug.

Deep breath.
Hold it now.
Eyes open.
Letting go,

I know who I am. I know, and it’s amazing. I realize that I'm the only one who can be this person. It’s an awesome responsibility to know that no one else can be what I am. I can fill this space that’s made perfectly for me AND
there’s time – so much time –
AND there’s nothing else I have to do.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Intimacy and Hope's Mountain

If you want to get the most out of your twelve-step-program, become a Sponsor.

Last night, I met with one of my Sponsees after a CoDA meeting. On the phone, she’d said she has some questions about step eight, and from her tone I gathered that she was struggling with something.

We settled into the old-but-comfortable couch in a back room of the Alano Club where we our meetings are held. I noted the furrowed lines between her eyebrows.

She talked a little about the work she’d been doing as she produced a small stack of papers. On the top sheet was a list of names. Some were highlighted. One name - that of her ex-husband - had a big question mark next to it.

She drummed her index finger on the question mark and said, "I can’t do this. I’ve been anguishing over it for weeks."

I said, “This step is not supposed to be painful. It can be scary, but if it's bringing up this kind of intensity, there’s a good reason."

We talked about her ex. He's an alcoholic. He was emotionally abusive, extremely controlling, and sometimes shaming during their long marriage. He’d cheated on her. He had a history of saying things to their children (who are now all adults) in order to sway them away from her.

And, she'd made some mistakes. She was trying to come to terms with them. "I'm really over him. I mean, what I really ought to do is thank him because if he hadn't been who he was and done what he did, I never would have become who I am, today."

"That's great. I think gratitude is the opposite of anger. Progressing that far is a big deal."

"But... do I have to make amends to him?"

"You don't have to do anything. This is your program."

"Yes... but I feel like... I don't know. I should do something. I can't just let this go."

She can't let it go. That seemed to be the important part. That's what I felt we needed to work on.

"Okay... let's remember to take this one step at a time. Right now, that means working on step eight. This step only asks us to make a list of everyone we've harmed and become willing to make amends to them all. You don't have to be willing when you put the name on the page. Becoming willing is part of the process."

There was still doubt on her face.

I went on. "In the next step, we're asked to 'make direct amends whenever possible, except when to do so would injure them or others.' Whenever possible. That tells you that sometimes it isn't possible."

The tight line of her mouth began to relax. "How do you know if it's not possible or if you're just avoiding what you should do?"

"Well, it says not to make amends if it would be harmful to anyone. YOU are included in 'anyone'. If it is going to be harmful to you to make direct amends to your ex-husband, than it is not what you should do."

She looked right in my eyes, as if searching.

I made a conscious effort to hold her gaze, feeling a connection. This kind of connection still intimidates me, a little bit. In the past, I was terrified in moments of closeness because of my own history. Just in the last year, a door has been opening within me. Intimacy – elusive, longed-for and feared – is slowly coming into my life. Eye contact is a piece of that. I’ve been testing it out in my sessions with C, sometimes daring to make eye-contact even in very emotional moments. It can feel very intense, but I'm learning that intensity is not always a bad thing.

I said, “Sometimes we feel bad about our part in things, even when the other person has hurt us more than we’ve hurt them. Some of the people on your list may stay for a long time. Some may stay there forever. We can only do what we can do. We work towards becoming willing, but when it isn't possible to make direct amends, we can make them indirectly."

Her relief was palpable.

"So, in this instance, how might you make indirect amends?"

“Well, admitting it to myself is a start. Admitting it to God? Letting it go? Making sure I don't do it again?”

I smiled. “You’ve just summed up steps four through seven."

As I've come to understand them, the steps are all about ownership. Throught the steps, we come to own what’s ours. We own our pasts as we write our fourth step. In step five, we share what we’ve written with another person, which brings it all home in a new way. It’s much harder to pretend the past doesn’t exist when someone else knows.

From there, we move into owning our faults with God – first just by admitting them, and then by turning them over, and finally in asking for help as we move forward so we won’t make the same mistakes again in steps six and seven.

Steps eight and nine are the final stage of ownership. We own our mistakes with those people who were directly affected by them - with those we’ve harmed. It can be the scariest part of owning our humanness. It is also the most rewarding and entirely necessary if we want to be all we can be.

It’s only in removing all the debris of our pasts that we can be ready to move into the last few steps, which are (in my opinion) about intimacy with ourselves and with God. Like any other relationship, it isn’t possible to have true intimacy without complete honesty.

I said, “Sometimes what we need is a ritual of some kind to help signify the transition from one state to another. For instance, I have a friend to whom I feel I owe amends, but she passed away twenty years ago. Logically, I know that is a long time to hold on to my guilt. It's obviously not hurting her, anymore. Like resentments, the guilt we hold onto only hurts us. It doesn't affect the other person. That's why making amends is really about us and not about the people to whom we make them. If we are making them for other people, we really aren't getting the most out of it."

She nodded.

"As far as this friend of mine goes, I’ve written out what I feel bad about, I’ve shared it, I’ve meditated on it, but it’s still there. I can't completely let it go. I need to do something. I've been thinking about how to make indirect amends to her for more than a year and I've finally decided to plant a tree in her honor. It’s something she would love, and I believe it would symbolically help me move out of the past. It's like walking through a door. The tree would remind me that I've let it go and am now on the other side.”

She made a note next to the question mark, and then folded the pages. As she thanked me and hugged me, I felt a great sense of gratitude.

It was very helpful to crystallize my understanding of this step by sharing it with someone else. It's also wonderful to feel as if I had the right words to help her find her way through. The connections I've made with her and others who attend my CoDA meetings have enriched my life in ways that were totally unexpected and are too numerous to count.

One other thing we talked about, last night, was how different it is coming to meetings now than it was in the beginning. At first, every meeting seems to hold an abundance of growth. After a while, it's harder to see progress.

I think this is because we come into the program with a deep hole. Gradually, we fill it in with shovels full of strength and experience. Over time, it becomes a mound. I'm still climbing up onto the progress of each shovel I empty, it's just harder to notice them from up here on this mountain.

The view is spectacular.

Co Creation

Co Creation
We create the life we live

Love your inner child...

...for she holds the key...

...to your personal power.
A lesson is woven into each day.
Together they make up the tapestries of our lives.