Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Living Beyond Your Means.

That phrase is generally understood to be referring to our financial states, but I was thinking today that I lived far beyond my means emotionally, in the marriage.  I extrended myself to exhaustion, trying to keep something going for which I didn't have the resources.

I was, for many years convinced (and told, since the alcoholic refused to take any responsibility for our relationship whatsoever, it was always and forever all my doing) that if I just tried harder, I could make it work. I'll never forget hearing somewhere, at a meeting, or perhaps a 12-Step speaker, that it's impossible to sustain a relationship when only one person is willing to put in the effort. 

When the other person has made it clear that they are unwilling to respond to me in any way other than the one they've chosen, whether that way is dismissive, painful, or merely indifferent, and I keep on trying, in the hope that they will "come around" "see the light" "get the program" I am living beyond my means. When I am expending myself in the effort to get what I want, giving more than I can afford emotionally, not receiving what I need in return, I am spending resources with no consideration of what happens when it's all going out, with nothing coming back in.

I want to be clear that this was my choice, to live beyond my emotional means. I may have felt like a victim, bvut I was a willing, if misguided, participant.I may have been susceptible to the acceptance of this treatment because of a self-image damaged in an abusive childhood, but I was also going regularly to an Al-Anon meeting, and denying to myself, my sponsor, and my Higher Power that I was married to an emotionally distant, and increasingly verbally abusive man.

Abuse creates abuse, and the cycle is broken only when the secret is broken. I pretended that my marriage was good for many years, partly from sorrow, and also from pride. It hurt my pride that I, a woman who had been in Al-Anon for many years, was living this way.

My pride was hurt,  and I felt ashamed that my pride was hurt, shouldn't I be above or beyond this after all the time I'd been in Al-Anon?

And then my beloved friend died, and suddenly pride was no longer of the slightest importance.

My grief opened me to my Higher Power, and completely, with utter clarity, to myself. I knew that I was emotionally bankrupt in that marriage, and that I had given all I had to give. That knowledge gave me the peace to leave.

I've survived the worst of the grief for my friend, my marriage, my dogs, and the life I wanted so badly to have, that I was willing to deny the reality of the terrible loneliness I felt in that marriage.

I went to a meeting tonight where the topic was "Living in the Present Moment" and I felt gratitude and peace as each member of the group shared.  I listened to the ways that each of us has fought with ourselves, sometimes for years, before we could find the peace and strength to choose to live in the now.

I pray to be granted relief from what AA's Third Step Prayer terms "the bondage of self."

Saturday, January 26, 2013

Living a Role.

"What really matters is not what function you fufill in this world, but whether you identify with your function to such an extent that it takes you over and becomes a role that you play. When you play roles, you are unconscious. When you catch yourself playing a role, that recognition creates a space between you and the role."
                                               Eckhart Tolle

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Angry Readers.

Every now and then, a blogger will receive a comment which almost steams off the page, the anger is so apparent. The writer always seems to be "Anonymous," and the writing vitrolic. Seems like I'll get one of those, and then reading through some more Al-Anon blogs, will see that a few others have received an ugly comment, as though the reader is going along dumping their toxic anger a bit at a time, on people who won't respond.

I try my best to be accepting and compassionate, but I don't believe that this requires accepting rudeness or incivility. Your anger isn't my fault because you disagree with what I wrote. Your anger is your responsibility.

I no longer try to calm down someone raging in anger - I walk away, or I delete their comment. I'm finally gaining a clearer perspective that by doing so, I'm removing their audience. Ranters love an audience, I've noticed.

At the meeting tonight, one of the women I admire for her strength, patience, tolerance and acceptance spoke of a little mantra she uses to remind herself:

I give enough, I do enough, and I am enough.

Powerful self-acceptance.

Friday, January 18, 2013

Asking For Help

Why are we so determined to do it ourselves? I once thought that this was a sign of power, of being  capable, efficient, successful. I considered asking for help a weakness. I've learned that when I ask for help, that's when I'm humble. I'm admitting that I cannot do it on my own, that I am in need of company, support, love.

Sitting around fuming and waiting will never get me what I need. Other people cannot read my mind, I need to ask. I need to understand that when I ask, there are going to be times in which the other person is unavailable or unable or unwilling, and that I must accept. If I can't get help from one person, try another. My sponsor isn't always going to be at the end of that phone, she too has a life. So what then?

Call another friend. If there is no person available to speak with me, I can read program literature, or turn to my Higher Power.

I have had to learn that I can give myself the encouragement love and support which I always sought from others. I can calm myself down in the same way that I used to wind myself up. When I make my own happiness and my own serenity my first priority, that's self-care, and I deserve that.

I thought today that my life feels very different now, because I am getting affirmations from program friends, and my siblings, that I am a good, warm, loving, compassionate person. What's different is that I don't have my ex-husband chipping away at my self-image, telling me the opposite. My heart is lighter, and joy fills me at the smallest things - sunshine pouring over the roof of the cathedral one block away, and visible from my living room window, assistance I render to someone in the building: time spent sewing jeans for myself: playing with cats as a volunteer for the SPCA.

I feel that I am a lucky woman to be living my life today, I have found peace that I sought for so long when married to the alcoholic. It was impossible because of his lying. Some people can live with that, and accept it as a symptom of the disease, but for me, because of my childhood, I need to be able to trust.

I pray for gratitude for all with which I'm blessed today. I pray for tolerance, patience, and a loving spirit.

Monday, January 14, 2013

Bumper Sticker.

I saw this the other day, and wondered if the driver was a member of a 12-Step group:

Don't believe everything you think.

Excellent advice.

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

Accept The Things I Cannot Change.

We can't change other people, they can barely change themselves - consider how many New Year's resolutions are made and broken shortly thereafter.

I was at first so shocked by the realisation that the alcoholic was lying to me, earlier in my marriage, that I tried to deny it to myself. He presents himself as the soul of honesty; I wanted so much for that to be true, that I tried to believe it when told that were I not the person I am, he wouldh't have to lie to protect himself. Twisted, alcoholic blaming, which awoke my guilt and caretaking behavior, but the truth, as an old AA guy once said, is that "The rocks in our heads, fit the holes in theirs."

I had to fight my way free of years of childhood indoctrination, before I could get to the place where I truly understood - what he does, he does because of who he is, not because of who I am. When I could finally let that shame go and accept, I could speak up about what it was really like to be married to him.

I could understand that there might, in some far future, be a chance of his changing, but I needed to deal with the here and now.  When my friend died, so quickly after diagnosis, it was brought sharply home to me that if I wanted honesty, I had to give it to myself, I could wait forever for him to stop lying to me. I had to leave.

It's been six months, and it's been hard in ways I expected, and those I didn't, but I know it was the right choice. Even when my grief threatens to overwhelm me, I still know it was the right thing for me to do.

I thank my Higher Power for the friends who've supported and helped and encouraged me, old and new, and for the comfort given when it's all felt like too much, and I've only been able to say softly, "Oh, please help me."