Sunday, July 31, 2011

Eaten Up With Anxiety.

My poor little dog has really been through the mill lately - first with the operation to have the lump removed from his leg, and then with a big hot spot on his nether regions. Half an hour after the cone was removed, he'd chewed himself a big raw spot, oozing blood. I was horrified, and he was anxious and distressed.
I got some calming pills, and a skin spray, and that seems to be working.

I got this dog from a pet store, before there was much education about where pet store puppies usually originate - puppy mills. He has always been a bit on the anxious side, and is a high-energy little dog. I think 3 weeks of not being able to express that energy in walks, or on the treadmill, because he had to be kept quiet to allow the rather large incision in his leg to heal properly, also played a part in the hot spot.

We're going for our usual Sunday afternoon walk with a program friend in a couple of hours, and I'm looking forward to it. She's great company, and we've been helpful to each other; we offer an alternative point of view, give encouragement, and we make each other laugh. That's a gift. I've learned more good life lessons through having them presented with humour, than any other way.

Last night I was looking at my little dog, and thinking about the destructive effect of stress and anxiety upon all of us, human and animal alike. I've had times in my life where I too, have been consumed with anxiety, with no ability to get out of that state. I was too proud to admit to what I was feeling, and too stubborn to be willing to try living my life differently. I had to be brought to my knees by a drinking alcoholic before I would accept help.

That was the first time. Since that capitulation to reality, I've had others. I've been having one in the last while which has been difficult to choke down, and resistance has been rising and falling with my moods. Someone joked at a meeting recently about "the three D's - Denial, Delusion, Defensive."

Life is not always as I would wish it to be. I must let go of my denial, and face facts squarely, without flinching, without complaint, without fear. It is what it is.
I must give up my delusions about having any control in so many areas of my life. I'm not the one in charge - my Higher Power is.
I must let go of my defensiveness, and sit quietly, that I may be in a teachable frame of mind. I need to be willing to let it all go.

I pray for the continued ability to practise this.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Awareness, Acceptance, Action.

I become aware, when I am willing to hear another point of view. If each time I am presented with an idea which doesn't mesh closely with my own, I shut down and refuse to listen, I will not learn.

 At this stage, I don't have to do anything but listen. When I say, "Ok, I'll hear it, but that's all I'm going to do right now," I allow the other person to speak their piece, and I'm not having to try to listen, through the clamoring of my internal dialogue offering up arguments in rebuttal. I'm listening - that's the agreement at that stage - you speak, I listen, no promises either way. We'll see; I'll think about it, and get back to you. I'll hear how you feel, and take it on board for further consideration.

I become aware, when realisation dawns that my "way" isn't working for me anymore. Perhaps a coping mechanism which has served me well for many years, has become obsolete, or is now obstructive to my maturity. I become aware, and I can sit with that awareness for a time, until my ego quiets down, and I can relax into my new awareness. Awareness may be gradual or shockingly sudden. It may bring with it sorrow and grieving, or it may make me burst into laughter. Either way, I choose awareness over the alternative.

Acceptance comes through several doors. There's the door marked: "It is what it is, and nothing on earth can change it, so why waste energy protesting?"
There's a door with the label: "Isn't this wild? Can you believe you didn't see this before now?'
There's yet another door: "Things that aren't what they seem."

I've come to understand that it doesn't matter how the acceptance arrives. At one stage of my life, I'd get so hung up on which door it came through, that the thing itself, the acceptance, was pushed aside for a while - this is a procrastination technique.

When I can make room for acceptance, without fussing about how it enters my life, I have greater serenity, and my sense of humour reasserts itself. When I reach for acceptance, draw it into my arms and give it a big warm hug, I am flooded with  peaceful feelings. I can breathe more deeply: see wtih clarity: have compassion for others, and myself. Acceptance is a powerful force for change in my life.

I used to leapfrog over awareness and acceptance, directly into action. I acted on impulse, without restraint, with little forethought, with that frantic sense of wanting to do something, anything, to force my will, or relieve my pain.

I don't do that anymore. I reason things out with someone else, and I get feedback from my sponsor, my program friends, my Higher Power. If I'm not sure, I'll let it go for another while, to see if perhaps that's all the action required - just to let go.

 "Awareness, Acceptance, Action" is a shorthand reminder, of a great wisdom. I pray for the ability to hear, accept, and use this wisdom, in my daily life.

Sunday, July 24, 2011

"Shouldn't You Be Able To Avoid A Meltdown, If You've Been In Al-Anon For Some Time?"

Good question. I can and do, if I keep my focus firmly upon myself, and detach from the alcoholic craziness.


I've heard long-term members in Al-Anon talk as if they soar serenely above the fray in all circumstances, in all areas, never having the slightest upset or annoyance, and if they aren't exaggerating even slightly, I applaud and respect them.

I can't do that. I backslide. I forget. I become hungry, lonely, or overtired, or my temper rises, and, I fail to catch myself at the "stop and detach" stage of the proceedings, and instead, I go with my annoyance, and pretty soon I'm on that gerbil wheel running like a mad thing, completely unaware that this is what I'm doing.

Now, I grant you, that these times are few and far between, because I have long experience in program, am surrounded by friends who also practise program, and work to immerse myself in the wisdom of Al-Anon. But it does happen now and then.

I've given up shaming myself for it. It is what it is. Once I realise that I've been doing this, it only prolongs the agony, to then pick up a mental cudgel and begin to belabor myself with gusto, telling myself I should have done this, and I should have known that, and what is the matter with me, that I would still climb onto the gerbil wheel of obsessive thinking when I've been in Al-Anon for so many years, blah blah...doing that only made me feel much worse.

I've learned to sigh, laugh, and feel a powerful gratitude for the serenity of today, off that wheel. I've learned to do an inventory, searching for my character defect which came into play in this particular instance, and ask my Higher Power to remove it. I work to figure out what was the precipitating factor, in the hopes that when a similar event arises in the future, I can be aware: I can accept: I can respond differently.

That's all I can do, and I can do all of that.

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Living With Crazy People

There's a well-known speaker in AA and Al-Anon, by the name of Father Tom W. He's a Jesuit priest, with an amusing and insightful message - you can find free downloads on the internet at various sites. (If you have trouble finding a free download, you can email me and I'll send you some links.)

I've been listening to a series of his Al-Anon talks titled "Living With Crazy People." It's helped me to reorient myself, and today, I realise that I'm not the only member of this household who is living with a lunatic. My husband is also living with a crazy person. I need to remember that.

When I begin to feel frustrated and annoyed with his "isms," I need to remember that I have "isms" of my own. I have my own insanity. The reason I chose the title of this blog, was because it is only when I view my world through an Al-Anon filter, that I am able to let go of my ego, and be more of the person I want to be.

When my ego is driving, I might get a few minutes wild exciting ride, but the end of that trip is a fast collision with a hard tree. When my Higher Power is driving, it's a slower drive, but I arrive safely.

The problem as I see it, is that any time I try to start a struggle for the steering wheel, my HP just lets go -  doesn't even try to keep driving, just moves out of the way immediately, saying, "Right, then - you carry on, and call me if you need me."

Bang! Head-on into the tree of reality I smash. I am a crazy person. I may be a crazy person with some Al-Anon sanity, but at my core, I am barking mad. I forget this at my peril.

Start again. Step One: admit my powerlessness. Step Two: know that my HP can restore me to sanity. Step Three: agree to let my HP drive for a while.

I can be a slow learner, but I do come around eventually, and I'm grateful for that.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Setting Boundaries - Again.

Mr. SponsorPants has a post today on how to deal with unwanted attention from a member of the opposite sex, in a 12-Step group.
I've learned that for me, in this situation, direct is best. In one town in which we lived, a man began attending my home group meeting of Al-Anon, which was composed largely of women; it was a small group at the time, maybe 8-10 regulars. This gentleman had recently moved to town.
At his second or third meeting, as we sat chatting before it began, he spoke up to say that where he used to live, everyone hugged goodbye after the meeting, and that he missed this, and wanted to suggest that we adopt this custom. Some women at the meeting blanched visibly at this suggestion, and an uncomfortable silence fell. Finally someone spoke up to say that she was willing to try this, and see how it went, and the rest all half-heartedly agreed. This guy made every woman in the room uncomfortable, but he was forceful, and somehow he contrived to suggest that by not hugging him, we were being unwelcoming to a newcomer to our meeting, and none of us wanted to do that. (This is sooooo co-dependent!)

When the meeting concluded, and the last word of the Serenity Prayer was said, half the people in the room leapt for the door - it was like one of those old comedies, where a clot of people are all fighting to be the first out the door, arms and legs waving madly, then poof! they all disappear. Those of us left were hugged by this guy, who plastered himself against us, and hugged us for far too long. Out in the parking lot, I said to my sponsor, "I am NOT going to do that again. Ever." She fervently agreed.
At the next meeting, when he came in, he came over and wanted to hug hello, starting with me - I held one hand up like a traffic cop, and said, "I'm not comfortable hugging you, and I'm not going to." Every woman within earshot turned and said the same thing, one after another. We all took our seats, and when it was his turn to share, he brought this up, and spoke of how he felt slighted, he felt unwelcome, he felt emotionally distressed by this, he felt...
The chairperson gently interrupted him, saying that this was not an appropriate topic for the meeting, and perhaps we could discuss it afterwards, if anyone else wished to.

This time when the meeting ended, he sat back down and announced that he wanted to discuss the hugging issue. Everyone else sat down also, and there was a feeling of anger simmering in the room, from him, and from some of us.

When it was my turn to speak, I said that I was not comfortable hugging a man I didn't know, and that I didn't have an obligation to hug him simply because he was attending the meeting. I tried to be as courteous and kind as possible, but I made it clear that if he was upset by this, it was his problem, not mine. Every woman at the table gave her own version of this message.

The one man attending that night, said that he'd be happy to give the guy a hug, if he just needed a hug. (For some reason, this was not received with gratitude.)
This guy never did come back to our meeting. Even so, we decided we needed to have a group conscience to deal with this issue. The woman who had originally spoken up to say she was willing to try the hugging thing was apologising like mad to the rest of us, but we knew that each and every one of us had put aside what we wanted, and acquiesed to something we didn't want, in order not to have to deal with the discomfort of saying: "No."

I'm not responsible for anyone else's feelings. I have a right to safety in my physical and emotional life. In order to achieve that safety, I must be willing to take whatever action will accomplish this for myself, and not wait for someone else to save me.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011


I had the interesting experience recently, of speaking with a friend about a decision I'd made, and as we spoke, I began to doubt myself. I had to take some deep breaths, relax, and remind myelf that this had not been a spur-of-the-moment conclusion; my growth in Al-Anon has been ever propelling me in that direction.

It was a clear demonstration of the way I can still be persuaded to act against my own best interests, if I'm not paying attention.

There may be intervals in our lives when our decisions are going to be wildly unpopular, and people around us are not going to be able to grasp our reasons. We don't need to justify or explain, no matter how strongly another person pushes for an explanation or a "good reason." When we've been patient, given it deep thought,  had an open mind about our choices, and come to a conclusion that we know is right for us, we can let go of what another person thinks we should do instead.

They aren't inside our lives - they may never be able to comprehend what has gone into our decision. We may be puncturing a picture they've always had, of what our lives are, and that's what they are protesting - the dismantling of an impression they've carried, and from which, in some instances, they may have deriven comfort. We aren't responsible for that.

We need to do what is best for us. I pray for the strength to follow through on my decisions; for the willingness to listen to another point of view, but not to let it supersede my own.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Great News on The Canine Front.

The vet called a short time ago, and the lump removed from my little dog's leg was benign. I'm thrilled, delighted, relieved. He will be wearing his collar for another 10 days, because of his insisting upon removing his own stitches before it was time, but just knowing it wasn't cancer....what else can I say?

I want to thank all of you who wrote and offered your encouragement, love and support, it was wonderfully comforting.

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Dog Chronicles

We were told to take the pressure bandage off our dog's leg after 5 days, so yesterday, I removed it. He'd been very good about not trying to chew his bandage, and I didn't anticipate problems. A short while later, I went out to get a haircut. I returned to find my husband in a state of distress - he'd arrived home moments before, to see the dog with an open wound on his leg - he'd chewed the stitches out. Back to the vet for staples to close it up again, another bandage, and this time, a cone on his neck, held on by bandage wrapped around and under his legs, belly, etc. The cone which is small enough to stay on his head, allows that long dachshund neck and nose to stick out, and the next size up slides right off his head. Hence the mummy bandages. We're still waiting for the lab results on the tumour.

Life in this marriage has been rough for me, lately. Years of choked down, swallowed anger coming to the surface and overflowing onto me. I'm trying to remain detached, attend meetings, talk to my Higher Power, and let it go. I have no control over how he chooses to behave, but I do have the power to set boundaries, and maintain them. Where that leads, only my HP knows. I've reached a place of acceptance -  knowing that there's nothing I can say or do to change it; it's out of my hands. I'm not lonely, because I know my HP is always with me, and my program friends are just a phone call or email away. I know they care for me, and will treat me with the respect and loving kindness I'm not getting at home. I've got my little dogs to embrace and delight in, to bounce with joy when I arrive back home after a short time out, and to snuggle with on the couch - one hand holding a book, the other stroking a soft warm dog on my lap. For now, that's enough.

Friday, July 15, 2011

Am I Aware Of My Own Character Defects?

A newcomer asks: "Isn't it hard to figure out your own character defects, because aren't you naturally in denial about them?"

An excellent question, and timely, since our Step Group is working Step Four right now. The writer went on to ask, how could she find out what her character defects were?

Ask your family and friends! All kidding aside, it can be an interesting exercise to do this, because our friends and family can see us with more objectivity than we see ourselves. When we've been in Al-Anon for a while, we can ask members with whom we feel comfortable, and whom we trust, to discuss this with us, if they're comfortable doing so, because there again, we can be viewed with more objectivity.

Al-Anon's Paths to Recovery is a good resource, and Blueprint for Progress is a helpful book to work through, with sponsees doing their first Step Four. Both have good thought-provoking questions.

Try not to worry too much about how you are doing your inventory, and please, try not to bash yourself. No point in making it more difficult, right? We all have human frailties.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Waiting With Good Grace.

The tumour which the vet removed from our little dog's leg yesterday, turned out to be considerably larger than it appeared from the surface. He's sleeping quietly in his carry-kennel. Because of the size of the wound, he must be kept on bed rest for 8-10 days. We have to wait for a week or so to find out what it was. Thanks for the concern and good wishes. I'll let you know, when I know.

I was up early this morning to give him his pain meds, and after doing that, went out to see how the garden was faring, after the pounding rain of last night. Only one rather skinny-stemmed delphinium was irretrievably bent; the rest of the garden was "bowed, but not broken." A few hours of sun, to dry the weight of the water from the leaves and blooms, and there will be no evidence of the beating the garden took from that rain.

I got up today feeling serene and peaceful. I have learned in Al-Anon that I cannot hurry life, my Higher Power, or the world, to accord to my schedule.They each move at their own measure, and I must fit myself to that. If I cannot, I will endure a great deal of unhappiness through my impatience, and all of my self-imposed suffering will not speed things up one smidgen.

I have learned to wait with good grace. Another of the many blessings of this program. Today's reading in Courage to Change speaks of "thinking in extremes." I could relate to that.  I was not a person who was able to compromise or adjust; I was rigid in my beliefs, habits, and thought patterns. When I thought in extremes, I sorted others into arbitrary categories, and then dismissed them. This allowed me to get on with the real business of life - worrying. 

Today, I can accept that "it is what it is." Railing against reality, hiding from it, ranting about the way it should be: these don't work for me. Prayer works. So does acceptance. Getting on with the daily tasks, keeping a sense of proportion, not taking myself too seriously; those are my better ways of coping, and I owe them all to Al-Anon.

Monday, July 11, 2011

Trusting My Higher Power In All Things.

I'm taking my little dog in for his operation in about 15 minutes. It's a testament to the sensitivity of dogs, that they are lying together on the livingroom rug, and not in here bothering me for breakfast - they can feel that something is up. Usually, breakfast arrives immediately after a quick trip outdoors, and coffee being made. They like to hurry me along with ankle and leg nudges, because it's never happening quickly enough to suit them.

Today, they came back in from the yard and went to lie on the rug in close, quiet communion.

Before Al-Anon, I'd have been a complete nervous wreck all week, waiting for the day of the operation to arrive. I'd have been unable to eat properly, sleep well, or enjoy time spent with him - fear would have sat like a stone in my stomach.

Today, I understand that it is out of my hands. I trust our vet, and I trust that I will be able to deal with whatever the outcome may be. We won't find out if the tumour is benign or malignant right away, it will have to be sent away for testing.
I'll post here when he's back home from surgery, later today.

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Don't Fear The Inventory - It's A Gift.

Many of us struggle with the idea of examining our character in depth - what horrors might we encounter, down there in the muck and mire of our crazed thinking? When we've been raised in families of dysfunction, we can have a self-image fragile and wobbly; I know I was afraid that I'd find out even worse things about myself than I thought I "knew" already.

What I discovered, was that much of my shame and guilt were assigned, and not deserved: that I had coping mechanisms which got in the way of my having a peaceful and serene life: that I was worthy of love simply for the fact of my existence - I didn't have to "earn" love.

Once I had a reasonable idea of my character, and my presumptions, conclusions, projections and assumptions, many of which I'd been unaware, prior to my first Step Four, my real self-improvement could begin. Without the inventory, I was a woman with no sense of direction, trying to find true north. Before Al-Anon, my deficits infuriated and distressed me, because they seemed to prove my unworthiness. In program I learned that I'm not unworthy, and that my mistakes, if I allow it, can be instructive.

Last night I was gathering the waistband of a dress I'm making, and laughed to realise that I was trying to get the gathers exactly perfectly distributed - unaware, I fall easily back into that lunatic perfectionism first acquired, when shame was a constant companion. I catch myself, because I know now how I operate, and I recognise my patterns of thought.

I know that when I have a sense of irritation rising in my chest as someone gives me feedback about myself, it's because I'm feeling defensive. I only feel defensive when I'm hearing the truth - so now, when I feel that irritation rising in that situation, I take a few deep breaths, and pay attention. My Higher Power is using this person as a conduit to teach me.

I do not have to like the lesson.

I don't float about my life, never feeling sad or bad or pissed right off - life is the way it always was, it's my response which has changed. It's the changed response which leads to serenity and peace.

The only way to a changed response, is to find out what my original response was, and why I had it - for that, I needed and still need, Step Four. I'm not afraid of myself anymore. I can be frustrated with my inability to grasp a message, but even that has paled and faded over time. I ruefully accept that I can be a very slow learner when I'm not thrilled with the reality of "It is what it is" and I can joke of this to my program friends, who will laugh with me, and give examples of their own dragging heels.

Some of the best laughing fits I've ever had, have happened while discussing character defects.

Pray for courage, and plunge into Step Four. Trust long-timers. when we tell you that you will be glad you did. Some things you just have to take on faith - this may be one.

Friday, July 8, 2011

Pulling On My Hair.

When a friend in Al-Anon is having a bad day, and I ask how she's doing, she'll respond cheerfully, "Oh, pulling on my hair!"  That one sentence encapsulates all the things we've discussed over the years, about living with an alcoholic, and not relinquishing our sanity in the process.

I'm feeling completely surrendered today. It's a wonderful, peaceful feeling. I know (again) that I am powerless. I'd like to be able to be supportive to the alcoholic as they struggle through their painful feelings about the loss of the friendship, but that's just not possible - when I try, the anger is simply redirected onto me.

I spoke to a program friend late last night, and we ended up in helpless laughing fits, describing to each other, the crazed thinking of our own early recovery. That helped me. Today, I feel compassion for the alcoholic's inability to say, "This hurts! I'm angry and frustrated, and I am mourning the loss of this friendship." I remember what an awful lonely place it was, when I was trying to pretend that I was "fine."

I remember the self-loathing, and how it affected my relationships with other people, and my inability to act with love when I was angry or in pain. I remember denying I was angry, while my heart pounded, and my hands shook with the intensity of my rage. I really was a crazy person.

No-one in Al-Anon ever told me how to change, or what to change - I changed because I could see their serenity, and I desired it with a powerful longing.

I pray for detachment to allow the alcoholic room to grow at their own pace, and compassion for their struggle.

Thursday, July 7, 2011

When Your Guppie Turns Out To Be A Shark.

Living with an alcoholic new to recovery can, at times, prove to be a difficult and even painful experience. I'm deeply grateful that I don't have to live with active drinking, but the "isms" can be truly crazymaking.

I've just had one of those conversations in which the alcoholic was blaming their choices and behavior on me, insisting that if I wasn't such a horrible person, they wouldn't be forced into behaving that way...when asked calmly why they were so angry, completely denied the anger which had them practically vibrating with rage, and finished up by declaring with apparent great satisfaction that they'd been lying to me for almost two months about something major. Then a dramatic exit, and I sat quietly trying to regain the good mood I'd had, just a scant half-hour before.

Today's outburst was one of several temper tantrums lately. I think this is happening because of a close friendship in which the other person (also very new to recovery) has cut them off, in anger at some choices made. It's ironic to see the level of anger felt at being treated in precisely the same way they treat me - ignored, shunned, dismissed. They've had a hair trigger lately, and have been difficult to be around, so I've been trying to stay out of the way.

I get moments now and then in which I glimpse the person with some recovery, but in the middle of these ranting, blaming fits, it's as if they'd never stepped foot inside a 12-Step meeting.

I'm trying to gain whatever wisdom I can from life lately, without letting their anger eat me up, the way it's devouring them.

Tonight, I laid a boundary down, and said, "No more, please, if you keep this up, I will ___."

That's when I was informed of the lying. I felt as if it was said in such a way as to try to cause maximum pain, and then leave me to suffer. They haven't been in AA long enough to realise that I can tell when they are lying - it's no mystery. So the dramatic declaration is no news to me, but I do confess I'm feeling tired of it all right now. I'm tired of the alcoholic and their coping mechanisms, tired of the anger being taken out on me, tired of all of it. Tonight, I wish I were single again. I'm feeling like I want out. I'm trying to allow myself to have my feelings, and let them pass, without giving them too much weight. I know I'm already a little vulnerable because of my little dog being ill.

I'm going to eat, and take the dogs for a nice long walk; it's a lovely evening. I'm going to pray for guidance, comfort, wisdom, tolerance and patience. I need all of those tonight.

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Dog Love, And Love Of Dogs.

Dogs have been a comfort and a joy in my life from as far back as I can remember. In my childhood, when people frightened and hurt me, dogs were a source of love. 

When I came home from school, and stepping through the door, felt the air tense with anger, and my stomach clenched in fear, for the beatings that I knew were coming, the dog was a soft and quiet presence. I would drop to my knees, and put my arms around her, holding her warmth against me, trying to gain courage with the love she gave.

When I escaped outdoors, down into the marsh behind the house of my adoptive parents, the dog was a sentry on the path ahead. I felt perfect safety, even when in the tall grasses and reeds that grew down there, all I could catch sight of, was a glimpse of waving tail held high.

My dogs have been a constant in my adult life, when the rest of my world was in chaos because of alcoholism. They've been companions, entertainers, friends, comforters.

Our little male dog, who has a tumour on his foreleg, has made me laugh like no dog before him. He was my introduction to dachshunds, and what comedians they are. When he was a tiny puppy, he was the same size as a plastic rat toy our cat loved to attack, and the same color - pure gleaming black from nose to tail tip.

When he was 5 or 6, the first grey hairs began to appear around his muzzle, and I thought that was far too early, since he had all the energy and bounce of a very young dog. The grey has slowly advanced along his nose until now he has the dog equivalent of quite a full mustache. But he still has the energy and bounce of a young dog - one vet suggested that the other dog in the mix was quite likely a terrier of some sort.

Last night, I was sitting on the bed telling my husband what the vet had said. A rush of emotion made me suddenly burst out with a wail of, "It's too soon!"

My husband said quietly, "It's always too soon with dogs."

And that is how it is, and ever will be. This is one of those "accept the things I cannot change" parts of life - dogs die long before we are ready. No matter what their age, or state of infirmity, we can't believe that it has come time to let them go.

I have tried my best to be a loving friend, and give my dogs a swift and painless death. But I realise that I expected to have our little dog for years yet, and I haven't even begun to deal with the reality of his aging. I've been in complete denial.

A program friend wrote: "I actually use my dog as an inspiration about how to live… try to capture her boundless capacity to live life to the fullest, each and every day."

For some of us, they will never be "just a dog."

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Dog Problems.

Update: It's a tumour, so he's booked in for surgery in a week to have it removed, and I'm going to try not to worry in the meantime. I've got a sponsee coming in a few minutes, so I'll write more later.

I'm taking our older male dog in to the vet in about 45 minutes, to get a small growth on his front leg checked out.

I thought that I'd write a post, but find that I cannot concentrate or think clearly with that before me, so I'm giving it up for now, and will try again later.

Sunday, July 3, 2011

Birds and Belief.

Silly title, I know, but I'm in a whimsical mood. There's a birdhouse on the top of the clothesline pole, and it's being used at the moment, by a sparrow family. I  watch impossibly tiny beaks appearing at the entrance, and a parent bird stuffing them with food. Whenever the adults return from their hunts, the excited squeaking of the babies makes me smile - anticipation and demand, all rolled into one loud sound.

I feel my Higher Power most strongly when I'm outside, listening to the soughing of the tall pines, feeling the wind in my hair, the sun on my face, and the satisfying crunch of twigs and pine cones beneath my feet.

I've passed the point in my belief where I feel the need to justify or explain. I have a comfort, I offer that to those with whom I speak and write, with no expectations that they will join me.

Today, I am content. I wish for you the same.

Friday, July 1, 2011

Dominance and Powerlessness.

A friend used to have a small dog, who was on a continual quest to find a larger dog to bully. He could never leave well enough alone; always had to push it just that one bit further, and then - smackdown! He'd find himself on the ground, belly-up, with teeth hovering over his neck, and a strong warning being growled into his ear. (He reminded me of my first husband - seemed to thrive on conflict.)

At the time, I had a large Lab cross who was only interested in sticks, balls, or anything which could be thrown and retrieved. She dealt with my friend's dog by not dealing with him - it was as though he didn't exist. Until one day when he had been posturing and prancing about in front of her, ignored as usual, and for whatever reason, decided to give her a nip on the leg.

My dog dropped the stick she'd been holding, peeled her lips back from her teeth, put her head down, and slowly advanced upon him, legs stiff, ruff up, tail held straight out - very threatening body language.

My friend's dog realised that he had gone too far, and began to ever-so-slowly back up. My dog kept advancing, and he kept retreating, and she backed him one circuit around the yard, until he finally dropped to the ground and rolled over in the canine gesture of submission.

My dog grasped his throat in her jaws and held him for a long moment, then let go, shook herself, and trotted back to get her stick. He rolled up into a sitting position, and sat there, then went over and flopped down beneath a bush.

His entire world view had been changed in that one moment, because he was a different dog after that, according to my friend - seemed to have given up trying to dominate anything but his squeaky toys. I found that fascinating - what was it about being told off by my dog that changed him? He'd been told off by Rottweilers, pit bulls, you name the breed, he'd challenged them and been put in his place, and it hadn't changed his behavior; why now? What was different? We never did come up with a satisfying answer to that question, and he's long gone.

Displays of dominance in people can be equally as mystifying - we watch as someone will cause themselves added harm, from not being able to stand down, to let go, to accept, to admit to their own powerlessness.

I tried for almost the entire ten years of my first marriage to dominate my husband's alcoholism, and I failed completely. I challenged him time and again, trying to force my will, and it had no effect whatsoever, except to increase conflict between us.

Whenever I try to force my will upon another person, I will fail. That's a given, because I can't change another person. I do not have the right to try to dominate anyone. I may try to justify my attempts to dominate with explanations about it being for their own good, or look at what they are doing to themselves, yada yada yada.

I am powerless over alcoholism. I am powerless over other people. How many times must I find myself with teeth at my throat and hot breath growling a warning into my ear, before I am willing to accept this?