Green Is the New Black

Jagger saw a red door and he wants it painted black….

I saw some shamrocks and I want them to turn black.
No greenery anymore, I want it to turn black.
I watch people walk by dressed in their St. Patrick’s clothes.
I have to turn my head until my darkness goes………….

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Well, maybe St. Patrick’s Day isn’t that bad, that filled with darkness.

My brother passed away on St. Patrick’s Day, but I don’t begrudge drinkers their green beers and Guinness. I don’t begrudge the ski areas their green snow. I don’t begrudge restaurants their fiddle music and corned beef. I don’t begrudge McDonald’s their Shamrock Shakes (I’m drinking one now). I don’t begrudge the masses wearing green t-shirts, green berets, green hats, green beads, shamrock pins & jewelry ………. ohhhhhh, it’s heartbreakingly everywhere. I entered a grocery store yesterday and saw multitudes of green carnations. I burst. But I don’t begrudge the world flowers, either.

I try to imagine if I relapsed. I imagine I would spend St. Patrick’s Day in a bar. Since today is a Sunday and the holiday has stretched its legs across the whole weekend, I imagine my trip to the bar would’ve started on Friday with a few naps and a couple of fights before Monday morning. I imagine I would have rapid-cycling mood swings in the bar and I’d be wailing about my poor brother and expecting free drinks and to be the center of attention – – sympathy, please! That cup would be impossible to fill. I would be just as greedy for sympathy as I would alcohol. No question about it. I would also probably become hostile and confrontational to anyone who irritated me and I would feel justified because “it’s a tough time for me right now.”

Because I did NOT relapse, because I have an outstanding network who helped me through this tough time, I am still sober. Because of the 12 steps of AA I am still sober – particularly since I worked them before the shit hit the fan. They would not have worked for me in an emergency and only in an emergency.

My new tradition to cope with the loss is to go to an AA meeting. Let me rephrase that. I have ALWAYS gone to a meeting on this day, but now I choose to attend an anniversary meeting. It’s nice to go and see people surviving and life getting better and better. It’s a celebration of a new life. I go and a lump grows in my throat. Tears pool in my eyes. I keep tissues and listen as best I can. With this rollercoaster of emotions, I don’t always hear the full story.

My brother died 4 years ago today to the day. Today the celebrant was, in fact, celebrating 4. It was very moving (and powerful!) to go to a meeting and hear about the day when someone’s new life was just beginning as my brother’s ended. It was beautiful. It seemed everything came full-circle . I tried to explain this to him, the celebrant. He nodded compassionately and mentioned his recollection of my being in meetings during that first week, how he had seen me in a lot of “nooners.” But I don’t think he fully understood. How could he?

I had been in a lot of nooners in the prolonged period of mourning. I had never had a loss such as this and went to meetings every chance I could. Often this was twice per day. I went to them on my lunch break. I went to them at night. I went into them sobbing, unable to control it.

Will had been in the military and a considerable amount of time passed between his passing and the military’s returning the body. Or maybe it just seemed that way. In writing this, I thought it was nearly two weeks. In looking through my photos of visiting family and the digital timestamp from the camera, I learned it was 8 days from being informed of his death to the funeral.

Learning of his death stung me with one level of pain. Going to the airport and seeing the flag-draped coffin unveiled another level of pain – – oh, it was so real now. Then seeing him in the coffin for the first time impaled me with pain I’ve never felt. It was heartbreakingly real now and that lingering thought that whispered muffled in the back of my mind … the thought that there was a mistake and it was another sailor who died …….. was now squashed. There was no mistake. It was my baby brother.

It was my baby brother who wore footed pajamas and fell asleep in my lap when he was a toddler. It was my baby brother who knew all the names of dinosaurs – whether common or more obscure, knew every bug. It was my baby brother, the one who loved to sit in a BIG empty box with me and pretend it was a car. He would ask me to drive this cardboard car because he was too young to drive. His destination? Nicaragua. Yes. And he pronounced it like a 2-year old, skipping some vital letters such as the R. He’s the one who grew into a humorous young man who had some sarcastic whispers, some secret jokes, and attempts to withhold a smile – a smile that couldn’t be bitten or hidden more than halfway. Yeah, that bemused half-smile of his. My baby brother.

That pain stabs me in the heart again at random times throughout the year. Sometimes in the fall on a random warm and slightly overcast day. I’ll wonder what it is about that day and I’ll remember it was the weather pattern the last time I saw him. Certainly the pain comes on his birthday. The pain stabbed me when I saw pineapple upside down cake in a glass cooler in a diner where they displayed their desserts; pineapple upside down cake was his favorite. The pain pierces me on Christmas and Thanksgiving. Sometimes on very random days I cry like a tantruming 2-year old because I want to call him NOW. I want to hear his voice NOW. Sometimes I cry when I’m buying a card for someone – anyone – and I meander through the aisle with birthday cards and pass the section that says “Brother.”

Once in a while I smile. I’ll hear a joke that I know he’d appreciate. I’ll be at a family function and I can imagine some things he’d have to say. I’ll see a picture of him and that smile, that amused half-smile and I’ll giggle, knowing what he was thinking. I can only hope there are more of these smiles. I certainly had zero of those the first and most painful year. There seem to be more and more of these as time passes. I don’t miss him less. In fact with each passing day I have more I want to say to him. With each passing day I feel like he’s even farther away. The distance of time is greater than any mile, than any light-year.

Today. Today I heard a man tell his story, a man whose new life started in March 2009. Thank God he found us. Thank God his life got better and better. Thank God he shared his message of experience, strength and hope with me today. Today I went to a meeting where they hand out chips. Two people got up for their 24-hour chips. Maybe this is the very beginning of more St. Patrick’s Day anniversaries for me to attend.

Watching Karma Come to Fruition and Other Things I Didn’t Expect to Expect

Resentment:  n – the feeling of displeasure or indignation at some act, remark, person, etc., regarded as causing injury or insult.

The word stems from the French word Ressentiment or “to feel again” from prefix “re” and “sentir.”  It is also a Philosophical notion from Nietsche.  According to Wikipedia:  “Ressentiment is a reassignment of the pain that accompanies a sense of one’s own inferiority/failure onto an external scapegoat. The ego creates the illusion of an enemy, a cause that can be “blamed” for one’s own inferiority/failure. Thus, one was thwarted not by a failure in oneself, but rather by an external “evil.””

That being said ………

I had a job that I loved, a job I was good at.  This isn’t just my perception; I received glowing commendation letters from funders following audits and site visits.  Outside agencies and coworkers and clients alike praised me.  They did and they still do.  That’s a fact.

A new manager took over and she “cleaned house.” I was a part of the house-cleaning.

[You know what?  I remember through the years hearing people lose their jobs to “politics” and “house-cleanings,” etc.  In the back of my mind I wondered if there was more to it, if the person who was fired really had some underlying contempt for authority or really wasn’t such a great employee as their self-assessment says…. yeah.  I was a little judgmental.  I put the “mental” in judgmental.  I was positively stunned that this lady could do this to me, that these things really happened and that I had little recourse in our “at will” state of employment.]

Compounding this …. or expediting it, I should say, was the fact that there was a lady who worked there who wanted to move up the ranks and had endeared herself to this new monster manager [birds of a feather….], and reported every little thing to her …..fabricating things if necessary.  She did not just do this to me.  There were others who were suspended and even fired. To protect the agency that does good work for the community (in spite of this), I will not go into too many details.  Besides.  There are tons of good people still standing.

Sponsorship – Thank God:

I kept in close contact with my sponsor throughout this and did EVERYTHING he said.  EVERYTHING.  Even when it was scary.  Even when it was the “right” thing to do and even when that “right” thing to do would make things worse for me.

Oh, and my lawyer, too.  I did everything he said, including keeping any and all written correspondence — even if it didn’t seem relevant.  There were some really unconscionable things going on and I was asked to do some unethical things.  I stayed true to who I was; my sponsor gave me the backbone to do this.  The new manager asked me to misreport some of our data so our census would look fuller.  She may have had a Master’s Degree but she was none too smart …. she made this request via email.  Yep.  Put it in writing.  I added this to the big file I was accumulating and responded to her (via email) just the way the lawyer suggested:  I asked if I should include the clients we report to [insert funding source]_______, the clients we report to _______, and the clients we report to _____ and asked her how I should proceed so that “I do this the way you want me to.”  This would let her come to the conclusion that it was double-dipping and it made me look like I was willing to do what she said …… but not double-dip.

Fired:

I guess if you ask too many questions then this is considered “insubordination.”  This is what they told me that last day in the main office.  The manager was rabid, spitting the allegations with foaming-mouthed contempt.  She really appeared to hate me.

The HR lady sat with her arms folded, eyes fixed on the table, her long hair obscuring her face. I kept looking at her in disbelief.  I wanted eye-contact. I wanted her to look at me.  But she didn’t.  Not directly.  I couldn’t be mad at her.  She clearly looked like she wanted the world to swallow her.

So I left.  I went home, rattled. I called my boyfriend and told him. I was trembling.  I paced.  I turned on the computer. I paced.  I checked the online classifieds.  I couldn’t read. I paced.  A single mom with no income.  How was I going to take care of my son?  There are Food Stamps, yes …… I paced.  I had money in savings. I could pay three month’s worth of rent.  I might need to tap my mother for help.  Would I even get Unemployment if I was fired?  Finally ….after an hour of this outrageousness, I prayed.  I knelt and prayed and prayed with all of my might.  I prayed with tight hands and clenched teeth.  I prayed and surrendered — fully surrendered.  I replayed the meeting in my head and should have said …. no.  No.  I prayed. It’s over.  No more “should haves.”  I’m powerless over the past. I prayed.  A wave of calm washed over me and I felt totally bathed in a sense of “EVERYTHING will be okay.  Everything.”

Being rattled came and went.  But I was adrift on this wave of calm.  I kept referring to it.  It was powerful.

Unemployment:

Staying home and looking for a job is hard work — not physically, of course.  Just mentally & emotionally.  It’s also unfulfilling work.  I sent my resume to one agency and they promptly wrote back:  “we need this in a PDF format. ”  Nothing else.  No encouragement.

The lady at the Unemployment office was outraged by what happened.  She shook her head and kept saying “Really?” in an incredulous voice.  She filled out the paperwork for me and told me to call in my hours every week. I did. And?  The agency  I had worked for appeared to be fighting my Unemployment.

When the state called and asked questions I told the man with the Boston accent, “this is what happened:  ___________, and I have an email …. shall I fax it to you?”  He said yes to all of these instances and offers to fax him the documentation I had collected.  I faxed him a 16-page bundle of documents.  My Unemployment was direct-deposited the following day, retroactive after nearly 1 month.

Where is our cast of characters NOW?

Meanwhile?  That lady who wished to climb the ranks without a college education, without doing anything remarkable to earn it (except lie and be malicious) got my job.

I won’t say too much about the job or where it is…… after 1.5 years …… because I don’t want to hurt the agency which seems like a seedling in the thawing  ice trying to grow back to its once beautiful self.    Really, they appear to have righted some wrongs.

The program manager lost her job (though she got a pretty little cushy layoff), and the Executive Director of the whole agency lost his.  He received a nice column in the paper interwoven with nostalgia for his decade-plus of service.  But I found out he was fired…… for misappropriation of funds.  I’m sure that nice column in the paper will get him a nice job elsewhere with little more than a handshake and a smile.

Even though they left with halos in the public eye and I had this scarlet letter …… this big red F for Fired ……. I was able to move on emotionally.  I was just genuinely happy that their corrupt and unethical  influence was gone, that the clients I loved and the staff that was like family were now “safe.”

That lady?  The one who made crazy allegations and got away with it and got my job?   She kept working there.   That drove me crazy.  On many job applications there is small print stating that lying on an application is grounds for dismissal (or for not being hired in the first place).  What she did to me (and to others) was tantamount to lying on a job application …… except worse because it hurt others and was not simply an act of self-promotion.  I seethed.  Oh, I seethed.

Resentment:

I struggled with a resentment.  I would pray it away and would do well for months and then someone would mention her, or I would see her name in an email CC’ed among many, or I would see someone who looked like her, or someone would mention the work-site in question …….. and there I’d go again.  I would fantasize about getting her fired.  I’d fantasize of enormous hardships in her life. I’d fantasize about all sorts of things, and it would always end with me encountering her somewhere and giving her a big Cheshire-cat grin except more smug, my arms folded, nostrils flaring, and my foot tapping.

Then it would occur to me to pray again …….. but it was too fun living in this maniacal fantasy world where I telepathically tortured her.  When I realized its impact on my serenity – and reminded myself that resentments are like drinking poison and expecting the other person to die — I would pray for her.  I would pray for God’s will for her, accepting whatever that will was.  Maybe she WOULD get fired (in God’s time, not mine).  Maybe she would win the lottery and move to Fiji.  Whatever. I accepted it all.  Then I’d be back on the beam.  Then back off of it.  Then back on it.  It was nauseating.  All this back and forth nearly drove me to Dramamine.

One week ago I spoke to my sponsor about it again.  He acknowledged that what happened really was not fair.  When it first happened he told me:  “expecting the world to treat you fairly just because you’re doing the right things is like expecting a bull not to charge you because you’re vegetarian.”  He’s right.  He asked if I can make the distinction between forgiving and forgetting , how this is something I probably can’t – and shouldn’t – forget.  I let him know that I know the difference.  This is more than remembering.  He recommended a step 4 on it, like in the Big Book.  So I started my flow chart of seething.

Her actions affected my sense of security [Fear: might this happen again?….. who knew that a lady doing a good job could get fired in an incredibly hostile way?]    Her actions affected my pride [Fear:  I am not always in control, good , bad or indifferent]……  my self-esteem [Fear: can’t I take care of myself and prevent things such as this?]…. Her actions affected my …… perfectionism! [Fear:  I now have this termination on my resume].

But all in all?  It was a control issue.  She ultimately “won” and had the upper hand and THAT is what was killing me.  Was I accepting that maybe this was God’s will?  No.  Was I accepting that maybe she …. in all her inglorious evil and sicknesses …. went AGAINST God’s will?  And that maybe in His infinite wisdom He knew she would do that and put me in her path for a reason?  No.

My conversation started with my sponsor on Friday. I did work on it over the weekend.

Monday? I got the call I have fantasized about this entire time.  She was fired.

A triumphant smile crept across my face.  I felt relieved.  “Yesssss,” I whispered.   I felt like the universe had somehow been restored.  I felt a renewed belief in humanity, that the agency I mentioned was done being complicit in bullshit.

The feeling ebbed as quickly as it had arrived.  I felt sorry for her.  No. I REALLY did.

It’s a couple of weeks before Christmas and this lady has a child.   Did that child make bad decisions or any other thing to deserve this?  Nope.  And that’s where my program is weak and can have holes punched in it:  children.  I have to remember God has a plan for children, too.

I felt sorry that she hadn’t learned anything, that she hadn’t “risen to the occasion” and done good work there.  The allegations against her are pretty serious and I’d even daresay scandalous.  I felt sad that the clients I loved so much were exposed to someone so unethical, cruel and perhaps even dangerous.  I felt sad …….. flooded with sadness.  That feeling has not gone away.

What I Wish I Had Done Differently:

* I wish I had been able to continue to look on the bright side.  *

1.  Did I REALLY wish to still be there when the upper management was taken down?  To still be there I would have had to have participated.  Is that who I wanted to be?

2.  My termination was a catalyst to my life improving.  I work for a GREAT agency now.  The governor recognized them a couple of years ago as being among the top ten list of “best companies” to work for in the state.  I was hired for 30 hours/week [not what I wanted, but the pay is better than Unemployment!] and my take-home pay is similar to what it was at that other place.  Working 30 hours permitted me to finish my education.  I needed to do an internship and I did it with this agency.  I learned more there than I might have at other places.

3.  Did I REALLY wish to still be there today?  I would have worked alongside this woman for the past 1.5 years and witnessed her in heartbreaking action?  No.

4.  Last but not least:  God had a plan for me.  I learned MANY lessons from this.  Would I trade that back?  No.  No.  No.

* I wish my forgiveness came before her being fired.  Was there really a need for “justice” to have closure or was I working toward closure anyway?  I don’t know.  I do know that I’ve wrestled with this for 1 1/2 years and wish I dealt with it sooner, using things I had already learned.  * 

In the Big Book it says in Chapter 5/Step 4:

“This was our course: We realized that the people who wronged us were perhaps spiritually sick. Though we did not like their symptoms and the way these disturbed us, they, like ourselves, were sick too. We asked God to help us show them the same tolerance, pity, and patience that we would cheerfully grant a sick friend. When a person offended we said to ourselves, ‘This is a sick man. How can I be helpful to him? God save me from being angry. Thy will be done.’

“We avoid retaliation or argument. We wouldn’t treat sick people that way. If we do, we destroy our chance of being helpful. We cannot be helpful to all people, but at least God will show us how to take a kindly and tolerant view of each and every one.”

I never found that caliber of sustained tolerance for her.  On my best day, I would feel that tolerance for a few minutes.

So here I am, examining where I went wrong and how I can do better (beginning with remembering that I’m a human being with human failings).  Hopefully this never happens again!  I’m praying for knowledge of God’s will for me and the power to carry it out.   Sometimes if I don’t “get” the lesson, it is repeated.  Hopefully I’ll “get it.”

All The Lonely People …..

On “Thanksgiving Eve” I felt pretty sick.  I needed my meds from the pharmacy and opted for drive-thru service since wading through the crowds at CVS was something I wasn’t up to.

A white car idled at the window in front of me and I pushed around the debris in my purse to get my wallet.  I could hear the muffled lady’s voice yakking with the Pharmacy Tech at the window.  I thumbed through my wallet and pulled out some cash and my CVS Care Card.  Thunder bellowed through my bowels.  I wanted to get home to the bathroom, to the safety and certainty of being NEAR a bathroom.  The white car continued to idle at the window.  The lady accepted the clipboard from the Pharmacy Tech, left her signature on the appropriate line, and handed it back.  My stomach grumbled menacingly.   The staff handed her the blue & white bags.  Happy this transaction was over, I waited for the car to pull forward.  It didn’t.

I could see the driver’s profile smiling at the man in the window.  Through the low music of my radio and over the hum of my car’s idling engine, I could hear the lady’s words.  I picked up on bits such as “big plans tomorrow?” and “I hope you’re not working.”  She tilted her head to the side and smiled, telling the man about a pie she plans to bake.  My stomach, as if alarmed by this, belched inside and sputtered.  Glaring at the white car ahead of me, I was dreaming of ramming her back bumper.  I was telepathically screaming “GO!  LEAVE!  BE GONE!!!”

A male voice murmured from the window and the lady smiled and nodded.  Her arm slipped through her open window and hugged the car door as she leaned toward him, listening and smiling.  My stomach lurched inside and I clutched it, promising if it behaved it could unload in just a few minutes.  Just a few minutes.

The banter continued.  A car pulled up behind me.  I glanced at the clock.   I had been sitting here for nearly ten minutes.

“…. yeah, pecan,” she smiled.

She talked about her meds.  It wasn’t a question about how to take them or anything having to do with the transaction. It was about the medication she had been taking before and how it made her tired.  I was getting tired.  I thought about pulling to the front and waddling through the mob I imagined inside, judging by the cars parked out front.  It just wasn’t worth it to sit here and be aggravated.  But then I was afraid of the potential for diarrhea.  I was afraid I would be trapped in a longer line.  This lady HAD to be done.  Surely deliverance was on the horizon.   Surely she had glanced in her side-view mirror at some point and saw people were waiting.

Mentally I was screaming, “Can’t you see you’re not the only f**kin’ person who needs their medications before Thanksgiving?”

Nodding and smiling, her head bobbing like a fishing lure that caught something big, she continued babbling about pies and expired medications and now her bunion .

I closed my eyes for a second and prayed for her.  I could almost hear my sponsor’s voice advising it.  I had my cell phone.  Maybe I ought to call someone from the program.   My mind racing, I mumbled the Serenity Prayer and mentally took inventory of ……. the meds I had at home.  Maybe this could wait til Friday.  But I couldn’t be sure and some of them were for my son.  He was going out of town.

I opened my eyes.  White car still sitting there.  Driver still yapping.  My fingers tightened around my steering wheel.  I started silently judging her:  selfish, self-absorbed, oblivious, stupid, chatterbox…….. all these angry, ugly words spewed in rapidfire grunts.

I was dimly aware of the radio announcer announcing what had been and what was to come:  Eleanor Rigby by the Beatles.  The music blended in and the announcer faded out.

“Ahhh, look at all the lonely people.  Ahhh, look at all the lonely people……..”

Just then?  I realized I was possibly looking at all the lonely people.  Certainly there was one in the white car.  Possibly one in the CVS window.   Perhaps, on this Thanksgiving Eve, this would be this lady’s last interaction until the holiday was over.  Maybe there would be a hasty visit from a grown child who was eating a small turkey breast with her out of obligation and little more.  Perhaps she has a spouse with Alzheimer’s and being with him and his dim recollections is worse than being alone.   Maybe she was just lonely.

And I sat there.  My grasp on the wheel loosened and I listened to the song.  My stomach rumbled periodically and I admonished it to shut up.

On Thanksgiving Eve and Thanksgiving Day, I stayed home with my thundering stomach while my family went out and enjoyed a big feast. I knew they would be back. I knew they were sorry I wasn’t there — that I was wanted somewhere.  I was thankful for this, for my house being a home, that I have Chicken & Rice Soup for the tum’, and …….. that I could hear my Higher Power speaking to me through the radio.  My hastily mumbled prayer had been answered.   I was also thankful for that patient and kind Pharmacy Tech whose name tag read “Josh” for doing more than dispensing meds to this lady and making her evening a little happier and meaningful while the cars piled up behind her.  He had all the time in the world.

 

Today’s Pity Party and My Brother’s Ghost

In 2008 I was diagnosed with Lyme Disease. Some years later, I’m still having health issues that range from nerve pain and fatigue to arthritis and digestive issues. Today: I’m extremely bloated (having gone up almost 2 sizes), have a bitter metallic taste in my mouth (I’m self-conscious about halitosis and my precious cups of coffee taste horrid), have joint pain in my knees and hands, am insatiably tired and thirsty, and have an impenetrable brain fog. Today I broke down and cried. I’m just so tired of it.

I went outside and smoked a cigarette. The brain fog made a gratitude list difficult – as did my self-pitying mood. I just couldn’t think of anything. Just a blank. What I could think about is how I slept away an hour of time I felt I should have spent with my 8 year old boy. What I could think about is how my stomach is oozing over the waistline of borrowed pants because mine quite suddenly don’t fit. What I could think about was how I needed to go upstairs and what a tall order that would be. What I could think about was how my mom was watching my son and how I used the time to take an epsom salt bath in a vain attempt to feel this much –> <– better. Pitiful, right? And how do you think crying over it and pitying myself helped? If you guessed that it didn't and that it made things worse, you're absolutely correct. On the other hand, the tears seemed to take the edge off of my eye pain . Yeah, forgot to mention that symptom.

What I neglected to think about in this fog is that it's my brother's birthday. He would have been 28 today. I thought about it last night and this morning and earlier this afternoon – and it's also my sister's birthday. It's not just my loss. It's hers, too. And having a birthday must be a bittersweet thing since that fateful St. Patrick's Day in 2009 when my brother died at age 24 — and the subsequent June 27th when he would have been 25.

I realized tonight that with all of the challenges I have with my health, I do have something to be grateful for on an epic scale: my life. Not just that I am above ground and breathing, but also the home I have today. I don’t mean the house I reside in. I mean the HOME I have today, a home filled with love, a home I look forward to coming to at the end of the day, a home filled with laughter and support. And then there is my life itself. I’m above ground. I’m breathing. There’s still a chance that I’ll kick this thing – whatever it is. I also have to accept that it’s God’s will – for whatever reason. And I may never ever know the reason. Humility reminds me that I don’t need to know the reason, either. On days when I have less of this humility I tend to analyze what the reason could be and why me. Well? Why NOT me?

Yesterday I peed in a cup. No news yet as to what, if anything, they found. I have a doctor’s appointment next Friday. I have an appointment with a Rheumatologist in August. I have to remember that this will be revealed in God’s time, not mine.

My sister, the one whose birthday it is, is getting married in September. She just earned her doctorate. Her Jack N’ Jill is coming up. There’s a lot of things to celebrate, a lot of things to be proud of. And why did I have to succumb to stinkin’ thinkin’? Maybe H.A.L.T had something to do with it — I’m Hungry to be CURED, I’m Angry about my station in life, I’m Lonely because it’s hard for people to understand this and I’m Tired , Tired, TIRED. I’m back on track for now — thank God.

They say, “Poor me, poor me, poor [pour] me another.” I have tremendous respect for the detrimental fallout that sitting on the pity pot can bring. And that’s no way to live a life that I’ve been granted another chance at.

I’m not perfect. And that’s okay. I have to keep this in the day and not look back to 2007 when the symptoms started to really take shape and start counting the months and years. I have to keep this in the day and not look too far ahead to the many blurring months that I’ll continue to endure this until I’m fixed. And I might not be fixed.

Thank God I can move on and shift my focus to what’s important today: my sister’s birthday and my brother’s memory. I love you guys. xoxoxo

Acceptance

One thing I have learned on this journey is acceptance.  I’m not perfect and sometimes I continue to fight things in my head, sometimes I struggle with resentment.  But for the most part, I’ve come a long way.

I think “acceptance” is a loaded word and means many things to many people — and feel free to comment and add what it means to you so this will be more well-rounded.  In the beginning, I struggled with the notion that it may equate passivity.  I thought people in AA with their acceptance had “given up.”  I thought their turning the other cheek meant letting people walk all over them.  They were suckers.

I know now that it means accepting conditions as they ARE today.   It means taking action and sticking up for ourselves and “turning over” the outcomes.  It may mean believing in God’s justice instead of pursuing street justice.

One of the biggest things I struggled with (in terms of acceptance) was my health and it takes ongoing vigilance to stay on top of it.  In 2008 I was diagnosed with Lyme Disease (after many months) and if the topic interests you for any reason, I keep a blog called Bloody Lymey (www.bloodylymey.wordpress.com)  It was a long journey to getting diagnosed and other sicknesses were tossed out at me.  Lupus.  Fibromyalgia.  MS.  Rheumatoid Arthritis.  Chronic Fatigue.  Certain types of anemia and other vitamin deficiencies. It seemed endless.  By the time I saw a specialist for Lyme, she thought I had had it for 2-3 years.

In 2008, I was five years sober.  I had worked the steps and continued working the steps and had a sponsor who I had been working with for 3 years.  I had a pretty solid foundation.  Thank GOD.  But even with a “program” and even with some knowledge of how to cope and resources to use, I still fought it in my head.  Before being diagnosed, I had a doctor who said I was depressed — and was willing to leave it at that.   If I was PASSIVE I would have shrugged and said “OK.”  But I accepted the very fact that he SAID that.  I accepted the fact that he gave me all he had.  I accepted the fact that perhaps he wasn’t such a go-getting type doctor and that this is how he IS.  But I don’t want a doctor like that.

I didn’t fight it in my head or sit around seething and plotting revenge (which is the opposite of acceptance).  Wait.   Sometimes I did.  Sometimes I did.  Ha ha.  But I realized it was using up my energy that could be directed toward something more productive. I ACCEPTED it but I took appropriate action: I got a new doctor.

In the two months it took to find the right doctor (and after some idiot wanted to give me ATIVAN for the pain!!!  But that’s another story), I had to accept where I was today.  That was tough.   I was fairly athletic, always hiking, always on the move, always playing with my young son.  I had to accept my limitations for the day. If I was passive, I would not have pursued adequate medical care. I would have laid down and applied for SSI, committed to sleeping and being in pain the rest of my natural born days.

It’s a good thing I didn’t do that.  Whatever was wrong with me would suffocate me at night and I would wake up not breathing. It was terrifying and I would swallow air, trying to survive.  It made my heart do peculiar things — murmur, palpitate, race, punch my rib cage, flutter …….   I talked to my son’s grandparents.  I talked to them about “what if.”  I made a video for my son to watch when he grew up “in case.”  And that was hard to do, but I felt it was necessary.

I had to accept the fact that when my then four year old asked to go somewhere I had to say “Not today.”  Remembering the invigoration following a hike in the woods or climbing a mountain, I had to accept that I couldn’t do that today.   Being on the move and out doing things was a part of my identity, a part of my soul.  It seemed impossible to believe I couldn’t do those things.  Sometimes I made myself keep moving.  One time I brought my son to the bike trail in another town to go for a ride.  I struggled, bit my lip and “toughed it out.”  The muscle fatigue got so severe that steering my car back to our town was tapping the last of my resources. I tried not to cry, unsure if I could get us all the way home.   Little by little, instances such as this taught me not to rock the boat.

Finally I was diagnosed with Lyme Disease and there was hope. I was being treated.  The specialist I was referred to thought that, based on the progression of the disease, that I had had it for 2-3 years.  Finishing the course of Doxycycline, I still had all the symptoms except the respiratory and heart ones — which had been the most alarming.

It’s four years and one month since my diagnosis and I’m exhausted today.  My knees and hands are stiff.  I slept for 3 hours this afternoon.  I have labs next month and see a rheumatologist in August.  My treatments have changed over the years and some things have worked for a while.  I had a 10-month remission at one point.  This hasn’t been constant and that’s the most insidious part of it, it’s the part that really makes me struggle with the acceptance.  I get to a point and think “Whew!  It’s OVER.”  And then WHAM!   It’s like having an abusive husband that I can never leave.  He’ll woo me, he’ll make up with me.  It’s all good.  Then the vicious cycle comes full circle and it starts again and I’m tortured from within.   Does feeling sorry for myself help this?  No.  Not at all.  My sponsor has beaten my ass off the pity pot.

When I planned my day today, I didn’t plan to trudge around feeling exhausted and unmotivated.  I didn’t plan to sleep the afternoon away.  But I shifted gears.  “I can’t control the wind, but I can adjust my sails.”  I accept my limitations just for today – not that I can do this every minute of every day, but it’s far easier than it used to be and acceptance is the rule and not the exception anymore.  I did what I could to nurture myself and to meet my needs for the day.  My soul wanted to go for a hike.  My soul wanted to clean part of the house to make it a better place for my family.  My soul wanted to scan more old pictures for a dear relative who doesn’t have many pictures of his mom.  But my body needed other things.  And I know if I just make myself do what I planned then I may feel like this for the rest of the week.  Doing the next right thing today will always increase the chances that tomorrow will be better— no matter what.

If I was passive, if I was taking this “laying down,” I would not see a rheumatologist in August and would not bother with the labs.  I would just lay here and say “this is okay.  Someone will take care of me.”  I’m not mousy.  But laying here and feeling angry that I couldn’t do what I want isn’t going to make today any better.  Laying around here and thinking about how many years I’ve dealt with this and how many more may be yet to come is NOT keeping it “in the day.” It will make it more unbearable – particularly if I dwell on it.

Today I have a relationship with God and know that whatever is wrong with me today serves a purpose. In hindsight I have learned so many things because of Lyme Disease.  I’ve learned a new caliber of empathy.  Today I help people with disabilities gain employment — I know more about limitations and have become an adept negotiator for reasonable accommodations, since I know how it feels.  When I have a good day, I appreciate it in the truest and greatest sense of the word — and I used to just take it for granted and sometimes even felt entitled to it.  When I’m okay, I really feel more alive than ever.  I don’t procrastinate as much.  I don’t put off mowing the lawn today because I don’t know if I’ll be up to it tomorrow. I no longer tell my son “some day we’ll go to ________” [insert name of cool place].  I might have to tell him we’ll do it when I’m feeling better, but we always do it.  Some Sundays I wake up feeling better than ever and we hit an amusement park.

My faith in God fuels my feeling of acceptance.  This fatigue and creakiness?  God gave it to me for a reason.  Maybe I need to slow down.  Maybe it’s a test.  Maybe it kept me home and prevented me from being in a fatal accident.  Maybe it meant for me to reflect on this some more today.   Maybe I’m not even ever meant to know.

Humility, too, fuels acceptance and a lot of my humility is based on my faith in God and knowing I’m not his right-hand man.  I’m not entitled to health.  God doesn’t have to do me any favors. He knows what’s best for me – better than I do – And what about “why me?”  Well?   Why NOT me?  Why should someone else have to go through this?  And the end of the full Serenity Prayer is :   “living one day at a time, enjoying one moment at a time, and accepting hardship as the pathway to peace.”

Humility helps me when my pride is eating away at me when I’m gimpy or struggling up the stairs with people accumulating behind me.  I’m not perfect.  I’m not untouchable.  I don’t need to be the tough guy.  But I’m not perfect and I’m not always on the proverbial beam.  Sometimes it does hurt my pride and sometimes I do feel self-conscious.  Like at the end of an AA meeting, I try to be considerate of other people and let the crowd gravitate to the stairs so I can lag behind and not inconvenience anyone.

All of this takes practice.  Acceptance is earned, not granted.

Feel free to comment with your thoughts on acceptance — how it works for you, how you attain it, anything at all.

Taking Care of Myself …..

I don’t know if I’ve mentioned this in this here blog before, but I have Lyme Disease (I have another blog about that called Bloody Lymey).  I was diagnosed in 2008 and the specialist I ultimately saw thought I had it for 2-3 years by that point (based on the progression).  I was reflecting today on how lucky I am for this, as lucky as I am to be an alcoholic.

I always used to hate it when people said they were grateful to be an alcoholic and I might have been darned near homicidal if I heard someone say they were also grateful for another chronic illness.

So whyyyyyyyyyyyyyyy?

1.  Why I’m grateful to be an alcoholic:  Well, it brought me to A.A.  And A.A. gave me a new skills set, coping mechanisms, tools for this journey we call life.  [I’m cringing as I write this since it sounds so hokey, but …. it’s also very true].  Because I’m an alcoholic, I’m far less judgmental.  What’s that they say about casting the first stone?  Something about being without sin?  As an alcoholic, I’ve just about done it all.  It’s hard to frown upon other people even if their life choices might be glaringly obviously BAD mistakes.  I’m more tolerant.  I’m more patient. I’m more kind.  I’m more understanding.  It’s given me a new caliber of compassion.  It caused me enough pain to ask for help and I learned alcohol wasn’t the problem – I was.  And in seeking help for my alcoholism, it made me seek treatment for being ME.

2.  Why I’m grateful to have Lyme Disease:  Already fairly established in A.A. with a foundation built in the steps, it deepened my program.  I learned more about staying off the pity pot and removing the victim mentality.  It helped me with another facet of compassion, mostly with people with physical problems.  It taught me even more about self-forgetting, how to think of others and “get out of myself.”  It taught me the importance of service work and staying useful. Today I work with people with disabilities of all sorts.  My alcoholism helps me understand the ones with mental disabilities.  My Lyme Disease helps me understand those with physical ones.  I also have a deeper understanding of the mental toil that chronic pain puts a person through.  I had no idea the peculiar thought processes that go with it.  It taught me even more about patience and God’s Will.  It deepened my relationship with my Higher Power as I understand Him.   It strengthened my faith.    The experience taught me to live life more deeply, to love more fully.  When I’m feeling GOOD, I don’t put off doing something fun so I can laze on the couch and lie to myself, telling me “I’ll do that tomorrow.” I am way more about seizing the day.  Carpe Diem.    Because I honestly don’t KNOW with a capital K if I CAN “do that tomorrow.”  I might not have a chance again for weeks, months, years.  Or I might have a 10-month remission like I did in 2009/2010.  There’s no knowing.  Procrastination was a nagging character defect, and Lyme helped me with it.  I still have work to do.  I still have to work on household chores and such  – I can blow that off.  It’s easy after being sick for some weeks to need to “get in the swing again.”

So why I’m grateful today:  if I hadn’t gotten help with my alcoholism, I never would have gotten help with Lyme Disease. I wouldn’t have had the skills to advocate for myself.  In some twisted death wish, I might have “let it go.”  Particularly when it was going for my heart.   I might be laying crippled on the couch right now, depending on someone to do me a packy run and using guilt or whatever tactic to coerce them into meeting MY will.  I also probably would have been a pill-seeker.  Honestly, this combination of different pains would have brought in quite some med-cocktails.

Thank God it’s not like that today.  Turning a different corner some years ago, and I might be a vegetable today.  As bad as Lyme Disease SUCKS sometimes – the fatigue is epic, the pain is immeasurable at times, and the fear I sometimes feel for the future feels unconquerable – I believe it is necessary for my spiritual growth.  And I say that on days I’m in very bad pain.