Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Pain - It's All Relative, con't.

It appears that it was just the process which had my tooth all worked up and vociferous in complaint - a few industrial-strength anti- inflammatories from my dentist, and now I'm getting just the odd gentle twinge. Thanks to those who sent good wishes - it's comforting to read them.

We are renovating our bathroom. Yesterday, in the process of trying to remove the old bathtub,  it was discovered that whoever had built the wall to hold the shower line and head, had built it so close to the tub that it was almost impossible to get the tub out. It was wedged in so tightly that it took two hours to remove it - first using a reciprocating saw to remove the edge of 2x4 blocking it in at the outside edge, and then a crowbar to lever the tub out inch by inch. Not installing that wall correctly - not leaving clearance room for the tub of just 1/4" to 1/2" - made it a herculean struggle to do something which should have been easy. Usually once a tub is disconnected, it will lift right out.

Someone joked that it was a metaphor for life - control freaks who are convinced they know how to do something, (but don't) can make life incredibly troublesome for other people.

My first sponsor used to call that state of mind "arrogant ignorance." It's very seductive, and flattering for our ego, to believe that we know best. If we aren't brought up short by crisis or the wisdom of Al-Anon, most of us would continue trying to ram our point of view down the craw of all around us.

A newcomer to Al-Anon asks: "Who gets to decide who's right?"

That's a personal choice for each of us. We don't like that idea, when we are new to 12-Step; we want so badly to be right, and the drinker to be wrong. We can muster numerable facts to buttress our position - we can prove it! I used to list off a long line of this sort of proving argument, and my sponsor would wait until I ran down, then in response, say one word: "And?"

If I looked at her blankly, she'd elaborate:"What good has it done you, being right?"

I didn't want to let go of my belief that because I was right - the alcoholic should quit drinking - I could find a way to make it happen. For those of us raised to believe that hard work is rewarded with success, this is a rough reality to choke down. But refusing it keeps us stuck in that same cycle of behaviors with the alcoholic. They drink, we try to make them quit, they drink more, we try harder to make them quit, they drink even more.

When I began training my first dog, I quickly found that it does me no good to shame or chide a dog for a mistake - when I do that, their ears droop, they hunch down, they completely lose sight of what I was asking them to do, in their attempts to appease me. A rough or angry tone of voice interferes with the message. If I ignore their mistake, and instead give them another chance to do it correctly, so I can tell them how wonderful they are for having done it, that's powerfully effective.

Why did it take me another twenty years to apply this piece of wisdom elsewhere in my life - anger gets in the way, and is futile?
Why can it still sometimes be so hard for me to accept that it isn't my place to be training people?


  1. Great post. I totally get the idea that sometimes DIY is just beyond me and it's okay to ask for help. I wonder at people who spend days and much time being frustrated to get home projects done. If I don't know how, I get a professional. It's a mindset that I now carry into interactions with people. I can't fix them. I know when I'm licked. I just need to work on myself.
    Glad that you feel better!

  2. Oh, I could relate to this post.