Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Please Excuse My Dear Aunt Sally

      A year ago I joined a book club.  It wasn't like any other book club, but a special group of women from different walks of life, brought together by a common struggle for which they found a common solution.  They have since become the key ingredient to my happy, grateful heart and strong determination.  They are women of Action.  

     We chose to read a book called "Feel the Fear and Do it Anyway".   It was not a book I would have chosen, but these women far outweigh any book.  So, "The fear book" as we came to call it, became our focus.  The first night we began sharing our fears and limiting beliefs.  Mine was the fear of Math.  Of course I wasn't prepared to do anything with it, and it seemed ridiculous, but it had defeated me. I was afraid of it and hated it.  Twenty years ago I came to terms with the fact that I would never finish college because of it, and gave up.  I had some sort of disability and that was my lot.  One woman said to me, "You ought to take a math class."  Personally, I thought she should mind her own business.

     A funny thing happened:  Eight months later I was sitting in a math class.

     Fear is a strange, strange thing.  It paralyzes.  It lies.  It keeps us stagnant and shrinks our self-esteem.  We become victims to it, and it can terrorize us day after day.  But Fear's greatest weapon is Action. We have to put one foot in front of the other to really know if the fear is even real.  I knew that the only chance I had of beating this thing was to try it; to feel the fear but do it anyway.  I wasn't going back to school.  I was only taking one math class to see if it could be done.  I came up with a small plan (small is the key), and if I succeeded, I would look into taking a second math class.  I also made a deal with myself, that I would not allow outside influences to push me, discount me, or guilt me into taking on anything else.  This needed to be done, and once again I shrank my world to just what I could handle.

     It wasn't easy and  fear was always shouting.  I was the oldest student and the slowest student, and spent many moments crying in the bathroom stall.  Every day, when class was over I would go down to the math lab for extra help and often stayed there for 4 hours.  Eventually, I would grasp the concept, ask for more homework (weird), and gain a little confidence.  I had become something new.. Diligent.  My wings grew a little bigger and it felt good; really good.  Sharing my test scores with my book club was the best part.  They never dismissed my efforts as being easy.  What they did was encourage me while affirming that I was a force to be reckoned with --from a victim to a force to be reckoned with-- That is how facing my fear was transforming me.

    With the help of  a math-nerd best friend, a gentle husband, family, friends, and the women of my book club, I did succeed.  I made an A in that class; the first A I've ever made in Math.  It was not my smarts, but my diligence and determination that did it.  Motivation follows action.  And action shrinks fear.  It doesn't matter if I don't make an A, it only matters that I keep going.  

So in keeping with the plan, I'm off to buy a graphing calculator for my next math class beginning in 2 weeks.  Pressing onward.

If you're thinking of facing your own fear, remember this.... If you succeed, things will change.  And if you fail, you'll learn something new and things will change.  Either way, the action has rewards.  If the question is "when", then my answer is..... How About Now?

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

The Wage of Addiction is Death.

"If I hear one more Amy Winehouse song, I think I'm going to vomit.  How can a woman so talented, who has everything at her finger tips, spit on rehabilitation and continue to destroy herself?"

Those were my words last Friday night.  Saturday, Amy Winehouse died.

Wow....  If the words we speak could kill, I probably should have died right along side her.  Yes, me, the recovering alcoholic and addict.  I have spent the last 3 days mulling it over in my head.  I have been everything from shocked, to judgmental, to even jealous.  Mostly I have erred on the side of judgment---a dangerous place to be sitting for someone like me.

In speaking with some ladies who have walked along side me through recovery, I have been reminded of this disgusting disease we fight.  It wants to get us alone.  It wants to get us in handcuffs and it wants to convince us that we are different.  We have to remember to hate the disease and love the person.

I did not know Amy Winehouse, but the pictures I see of her are an outward representation of what I once felt inside.  Pain has many forms.  We all have it.  Unfortunately, some of us find physical ways to keep it at bay or lessen the effects of our pain.  Before we know it, we are in the throws of addiction.  Be it alcohol, drugs, sex, perfectionism, workaholism, or anger, they all cover up our pain and our fears.

But the wage of addiction is Death.  It causes death of relationships, our self-worth, our morals, our happiness, our very souls, and eventually it puts us in the ground.  I hate this disease.  I hate what it did to Amy's heart and mind.  I hate what it does to the people that I love.  We all need to be better educated on the effects of addiction.  Most importantly we need to remember that some of us are sicker than others and that everyone we meet is fighting some kind of battle.  We need to open up, to love more and share more.  We are all meant for connection, and I can't help but wonder what life would be like if we could see how much alike we are--- how we all carry pain and fear--- instead of judging one another.

Too many of us feel "different" or "alone".  We stand on the social ladder and compare ourselves.  If we are at the bottom looking up, we feel small and insignificant and put people above us.  If we are standing at the top looking down, we will always be in fear of loosing it all and becoming small and insignificant.

Well, I've got news for you... Emotionally, we are all standing in the middle of the same ladder.  It is my hope that somewhere in the future, the human race will be strong enough to fight the pain and fear that we all feel without turning to the very substances that want us dead.  It is just as important to refrain from judging others based on something we just don't understand.

Rest in Peace, Amy Winehouse.  I hope you find the peace you were looking for and I'm sad it was so far from your grasp while you were here.

It is my job to practice more love and tolerance.  And it is my job to continue to fight this disease with everything I've got.  Lives are on the line.  And they are too precious to lose.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Dork, party of one?

My family and I have decided to give up cable for the YMCA.  I'd like to say that we are turning in our bad bodies for hard bodies, but the truth is, we found Netflix.  With all the money we've wasted on cable that we no longer watch, we thought we'd get some much needed exercise.  I'm a yoga lover,  but I thought I'd branch out and try a ZUMBA class yesterday.  Are you laughing?  As you should be. 

Who knew I was the world's worst Latin dancer!?  I went to an "intro" class that was anything but "intro."  The only instruction I was given was by the lady to my left who said "Just don't look at yourself in the mirror."    WHAT??   Judging by the looks of the women around me, I thought, "piece of cake", until the music began and I realized I had just entered Salsa Hell.  The hips on these women!  The skills!  No matter what step they took, my body did the opposite.  It was undoubtedly one of my most embarrassing moments.  Oh yeah, a whole hour of moments! I just kept telling myself, "just keep smiling, just keep smiling".  If anything, at least I could look like I was having a great time.  The squirrels in my head kept telling me I was a complete fool; that I should meringue my way out the door...... if I only knew how to meringue.

Then the thought occurred to me.....  Every class has a beginner.  Every class has that one chic who you  compare yourself to and think "well, at least I'm not that bad....poor girl".   And I realized I had a place.  I actually belonged where I was.   "Just keep smiling, just keep smiling......maybe someone will be impressed by my bravery.  Just keep smiling....." 

And when it was all over, I was still alive.  No one was laughing.  In fact a few of them came up to me and said "you have to come back! You will love it".  The last time I listened to people tell me to "keep coming back", it saved my life.  So I added a splash of humility when I told them how great I did on the stretching exercise, got some laughs, and then out of my mouth (on it's own) flew "I'll come back. I won't give up."

I learned some great lessons...
1. Fat women can dance.
2. Smile when you don't want to.  It's guaranteed to help you get through it.
3. Never give up, you won't die.
4. There's a nut for every wrench. (and a dork for every class).
5. If you're not failing, you're not trying hard enough.

Old timers tell me to give everything 6 tries before making up my mind.  I'll go back for 5 more shots to the ego.  I can handle it.  I bet I'll make some friends and who knows, I might actually learn how to dance.  Yes, the odds are against me, but even flailing like a nut job still burns calories.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

"Let me be Frank"

I wish you could meet Kevin, also known as Frank.  When it's his turn to speak he says "Hi, my name's Kevin, but let me be Frank."  He tells his joke, every time, like it's the first time.  It is as old as he is, but to know him is to love him..... bad jokes and all.

Thirty-five years ago, Kevin fell 40 feet to the ground.  After awakening from a coma, he had to learn how to live all over again.  He had to relearn how to speak and walk, and train his brain to cooperate with his body.  Because he could not get a driver's license, he had to ride his bike everywhere, and that in itself, carried it's own complications.  When Kevin wanted to steer to the right, he would go left.

So we got to talking about why bad things happen to good people.  Ah, the age old question of which we never get the answer.  Well, my friend Kevin can see good in everything around him.  We believe that we who have suffered are special.  We were chosen for greatness.  If we had a life of no pain, it would be impossible for us to grow.  Even worse, we would be incapable of gratitude.

Think about the two-year-old.  Everyone can see that the two-year-old is rotten.  They haven't experienced pain, made stupid mistakes, or suffered the consequences of bad choices.  Their favorite person in the world is themselves.  Ungrateful, greedy, selfish little terrors.  They only begin to grow as they experience pain.  Burning their fingers on a stove teaches them to use caution.  A spanking teaches them that a bad choice has consequences.  Losing a friend teaches them to be a better one.

Once again, the age old cliche emerges that "What doesn't kill you makes you stronger."  I prefer "With Pain Comes Growth."  We just don't grow without it.  Or how about the Aerosmith song, "Don't know what you've got 'till it's gone."   Well, my friend  Kevin has learned the value of walking on his own and being able to speak well enough for people to understand him.  I never realized how spoiled I am to have never worried about wanting to steer left on a bicycle and instead, going right and landing on the pavement.

Pain reminds us to be grateful when it is absent.

Without pain, we would  be grown up, rotten two-year-olds.  Selfish, greedy, lazy and entitled.  Well, Kevin is teaching me that the pain and suffering I experience (which is very minor, I must add) is molding me into the person I am meant to be.  It sure would be inspirational if we could  say "Bring it on."  We are all growing up to be something special.   Despite our pains, we are destined for greatness. We just have to search for the good in everything and be more like Kevin.

Or was it Frank?

Saturday, March 12, 2011

Half empty or Half full?

It amazes me how one word from a difficult person can break my good mood.  I can be having the perfect day, and one small comment from a difficult person can rock it, if I choose to let it.  The difference between an adventure and an ordeal is my attitude.  Maintaining a good attitude is easier than changing an attitude.  There will always be difficult people. The key, for me, is to be aware of myself..... When I feel the rush to say something snide, or fight back, that physical feeling of boiling blood is my warning signal to say and do absolutely nothing.  I've got to keep a half-full attitude and pause when agitated. 

I'm reminded of a good story about facing difficult people...


 A woman told a story today that moved me. She had been studying for a Spanish test and the night before the test she composed a bunch of index cards and labeled everything around the house with it's corresponding Spanish word. She is a visual person, and  spent a decent amount of time on them.   She woke up the following morning, and  to her surprise, her roommate had rearranged them all to confuse her. She was angry and heartbroken that a person whom she trusted could do such a mean thing to her for her own enjoyment.
Full of tears and resentment, she looked around the house and began pulling them off one by one and putting them in their proper places. One by one..... This one goes here.... this one goes there... you get the picture. By the time she finished it was time to leave for class and take the test.

To her surprise, she passed with flying colors. When she arrived back at home, the snickering woman asked in a mocking tone, "So how did you do?".   Her reply?...... "I aced it, and couldn't have done it without you. Thank you."

I wanted to stand up and shout!  If we could all look at life that way, we would handle so many things so differently. Sometimes, the people in our lives who want to hurt us.... bless us. It is true that all things happen for a reason. If we can climb out of ourselves, if for a second, and ask ourselves "How can this help me grow?", what would we find? We go through life thinking we know just the right way things should be done. We go through life trying to control our situations. We go through life determined to control others.

If we let go, find acceptance, and look for the "rainbows" we will be amazed at what lies ahead. In AA we say that "God does for us what we cannot do for ourselves". I like to think that sometimes God does for us what we won't do for ourselves. The key is to find acceptance in all things. God works for Good. Only Good. In times of trouble and panic, there is a light if we slow down and look for it.

What is Acceptance? It is coming to terms with the way things are playing out, and allowing things to be what they are and People to be who they are....without us.... Without our control.

What is Resentment? It is being angry at what doesn't go the way we thought it should. Or being angry at people who have hurt us and behave in a way we think they shouldn't. How do we move past it?

Try changing the perspective. You just might find the answer that's easier to live with.

Just a thought.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Butterfly With Little Wings

I love a good challenge.  I didn't always, but this past year has been  proven to be the year of the not-so impossible.  Last year I quit drinking, quit smoking, survived the "devil diet", and even weaned off of anti-depressants.  The things I have learned about myself are immeasurable, and often times, beyond description.  This has been a year of self-discovery, serenity, and change, to say the least.  I am just beginning to catch a glimpse of the real authentic Chrissy.  I am a Butterfly with little wings.

So one would think I deserve a break....But just like every day with it's new beginnings, Sunday I learned about what it truly means to fast.  Now, I am not an Uber-religious person, but what intrigues me is hearing that the point of fasting is to abstain from what controls you.  Yes, that's a tough pill to swallow.  The beauty is in the self-discovery that you find, when you actively surrender the thing that controls you the most.  So in keeping with the title of my blog, my search for happiness, and the courage to change,..... How about now?

So what controls me?  My ego.  Let's be honest.  I enjoy Facebook for many reasons such as the ability to connect with friends and to feed my addiction for constant social interaction, but the thing that gets me every time is the constant wonder of  "Is anyone thinking of me?"  Sure, I'm nosey too.  I'm always wondering what everyone is doing.....or posting.....or commenting. However, if I take a look at that musty place inside where no one is allowed to enter , I see my little ego getting excited when someone notices me.  Now, I'm not saying Facebook is bad!  Believe me, after 40 days of this insanity I'm bringing upon myself, I will surely be the first one logged in on day 41!

E.G.O.= Easing God Out.  If left to my own devices, and my ego, I have proven to end up in some pretty shady places.  I have faith that this is essential to my Wing-Growth.  Lent begins tomorrow and believe it or not, I'm a little excited about what I might find or Who I might find.

(Thank God for the Blog!)

Friday, March 4, 2011

Grateful for Gratitude

GRATITUDE.  It is the cure-all.  In my search for happiness, I'm discovering that finding Gratitude in everything is as necessary to the heart as water is to the body. It cleanses us from Self, which is the ultimate destroyer of every good thought or deed.  The key to releasing myself from the bondage of Self, is  not only finding Gratitude, but expressing Gratitude.  I've learned that every act a human being makes is either an act of LOVE or and act of FEAR. Every act that isn't loving,(anger, jealousy, envy, greed, pride,etc) is simply a manifestation of Fear.  If perfect love casts out fear, and Gratitude is the highest, most purest form of love, then naturally Gratitude is the antidote to fear.  William Arthur Ward said that "Experiencing gratitude and not expressing it is like wrapping a present and not giving it."  So naturally, if we're not expressing our gratitude, there is no loving....only "self-ing". 

I don't like the phrase "Give credit where credit is due", frankly because it sounds like an order and not a suggestion.  I don't play by the rules well.  This girl  has to fall on her face to  learn that the ground is hard.  I am grateful for the ground.... it stops me from an eternity of falling.  Wherever there is good, there is a gratitude waiting to be sewn in.  When we are in Gratitude, we are contributing to life.  When we are not, we are simply contributing to Self..  Self only serves Self.  Gratitude is the gift that keeps on giving.  Just like the symbol of gratitude (shown above), it is an intricate circle that continues to feed itself and expand.  I like being part of that circle.  The best part?.... There is room for all of us.  Happy Gratitude Friday :)