Insomnia? Me?

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It’s 4 a.m., and I can’t sleep. This is not usual for me. I went to sleep just fine around 10:30 last night. I woke up about 3:30 because my dog was whining and just couldn’t fall back asleep.

I’m moving the day after tomorrow. We’ll have the moving van here around 9 a.m., so I have one more day to get everything packed. (It’s just a local move, so if we miss a few things it’s not a huge deal. We have the old house through the weekend to finish.)

My mind was going over what furniture would go where in the new place. Then I was thinking about the kitchen. It’s a rental house, and when we looked at it, it had a free-standing pantry in the kitchen. I’m counting on that being there. What if they removed it? That’s the only reason why the house was OK, if we had that extra storage in the kitchen, but if it’s gone, what will I do?

By then, my heart rate was up and my body was tense. All of a sudden the idea crashed through all that thinking: there is nothing I can do about it right now.

Next I started thinking about the long to-do list related to the move, like changing our address on Amazon, and for insurance, and for meal delivery, and my daughter’s magazine….

Nope. Can’t do anything about that either. I still couldn’t sleep, but at least I wasn’t torturing myself with all that thinking.

I believe that the mindfulness meditation I’ve been doing helped me come to that realization sooner than it would have, say, a couple of months ago. I was able to get a bit of perspective. Am I sleepy? No. That’s when a novel idea struck me: why not just get up?

I’m usually one who likes to sleep in. I could sleep until 9 or 10 every morning if it wasn’t for my early-riser son… and he’s out of town right now. Maybe I’m getting older and don’t need as much sleep. I don’t know and don’t care.

The point is, acceptance of my situation, exactly as it is (ie I can’t sleep) can lead to action. Might as well get going with my busy day. I thank God for the clarity I have today.

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Like a Dry Sponge

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There are days when I feel empty, rudderless, and godless. At moments I can feel so completely sure of a Higher Power working in my life, and other times I feel terror, like I’m fumbling, lost, a child in a grown-up world.

At those uninspired times, I need to break it down real simple. As long as I don’t take a drink or drug, there is hope in my life. When I get confused, I remember that AA is my spiritual path. Part of that spiritual path is to seek through prayer and meditation to improve my conscious contact with Spirit.

I had a profound experience during meditation recently. I had been feeling completely drained, exhausted, like my skin was a collection of raw nerves. I remembered to take quiet time and sit in meditation.

I started off with my usual mindfulness meditation app. But when the app ended, I remained sitting in silence. Then  I felt, with each breath, that I was drawing up energy from the core of the Earth. I was soaking up energy like a dry sponge soaks up water. Immersed in Spirit, I drank until my nerves were calm, my mind was at peace, and I felt renewed.

Just remembering that feeling helps me at this moment feel “OK.” We are still unsure of where we will be living a month from now. There are so many pros and cons of every house we have looked at. I don’t trust my own judgement. I know that if you give me 5 possibilities, on my own I will pick the worst possible situation.

I do not know what will happen next month, next week, or even later today. I have to trust that there is as energy above and throughout that guides me… when I keep my mind open and listen. As I prepare to go about my day, I must remember to stop, pray, and seek guidance in my every step and action.

What I’ve Been Training For

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I’ve been doing almost daily mindfulness meditation for a little bit now. I’m enjoying that quiet time set aside, and I also like the guided assistance of the Smiling Mind app. I’m finding that I am quicker to remember to stop, think, and breath. At almost any time, I can close my eyes, takes a few deep breaths, and feel calm wash over me.

And that’s a good thing, because this shit is getting real again. We got notice from our landlord that they need to sell the house we’re living in. With a family of four and three dogs (including a German Shepherd), finding a suitable house in our price range is not the easiest thing to do. So I rely on my training.

In addition to mindfulness, I also rely on a faith in a Higher Power. It’s not a formal thing. It’s not anything I pray to. It’s an underlying awareness of grace, that force which is life, that energy that was pure light that became everything and is everything. Perhaps the biggest benefit of long-term sobriety is the accumulation of experiencing things working out. By the grace of God, I should celebrate 30 years sober next month.

I am striving to maintain a sense of curiosity. What does God have in store for me next? It’s a quiet hopefulness. I know there is work to be done. We loved this house, and it is time to move on. I have multiple lines in the water and am quick to pull the line when I feel a nibble.

Of course, we still have 45 days. This could be an entirely different story when it gets close to our deadline to be out. But I know that all I need to do is show up, do what is in front of my, and don’t try to force my will. As the Big Book says, we relax and take it easy.

Meditation Reboot: Mindfulness Apps

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Last year I made a commitment to start meditating regularly. Well, that didn’t work out so well. Soon I was caught up in the daily frustrations and flashes of anger and completely forgot about trying to meditate. Peace of mind can be so elusive.

Then, a couple of months ago, my son asked to go off his ADHD meds. When he takes them, he doesn’t eat all day. By the end of the day, when the meds wear off, he is crazy hungry and out of control. We decided that if he was willing to commit to a regular meditation practice we would be willing to let him stop his medication.

I read a lot about meditation for kids and one idea kept repeating: the best way to help kids develop a meditation practice was for the parents to also practice meditation. I realized there was no way around it. I had to start meditating.

I decided to try a meditation app. Unfortunately, there are hundreds, if not thousands, of them. They range in price from free to almost $100 or more. I started downloading and trying the free ones, but found most of them to be incredibly annoying. You know those syrupy-sweet voices that are almost a whisper? I hate those. Where I live, they call that “airy-fairy.”

I asked people about apps they used and stumbled across an app called Smiling Mind. I downloaded the Smiling Mind app (it’s available for IOS and Android.) The dude is Australian, and I found his voice to be remarkably non-irritating.

This particular app is completely free. There are no parts that you have to pay to unlock. I really like that. None of the dealer’s ‘first taste is free’ thing.

Smiling Mind has a number of different programs. They have programs for kids in different age ranges, programs designed for teachers, and a number of programs designed for adults with different focuses such as sports or for the workplace.

Each program comes in several modules which are designed progressively to help you develop mindfulness and increase the time, gradually, that you spend in meditation. Each module consists of meditation sessions, but they also include activities to enhance your mindfulness.

I’m averaging about 3 times a week, but hope to increase that. You can set daily reminders on your phone or to tell  it to notify you when you haven’t been on the app for a few days.

I’m really enjoying working through the basic adult program. Eventually, I’ll be able to do longer and longer meditation with little to no vocal guidance. Of course, you don’t actually need an app to meditate. Simply following your breath can help you return to calm.

I feel like this app is helping me develop mindfulness to instill a deeper sense of peaceful contentedness. Try it! You might like it.

 

 

Inclusion and Cooperation, Not Division

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I’m a longtime liberal/progressive Democrat. I was born and raised to believe that it is not enough to make sure that I get what I need. Instead, I have the responsibility to look out for those who are less fortunate.

I live in a “blue” state, and am happy about that. I am proud of that. However, I just got an email to get a free bumper sticker that says, “Vote Blue” and I’m not going to do it.

It is this duality, if you are not with me you are against me, that contributes greatly to our divided nation. The venomous hate I hear spewed about people of color, or poor people, or people with special needs… It hurts me. But hating the hater solves absolutely nothing.

If I were to say “Vote Blue,” I am blindly, rabidly following  some abstract thing. Party loyalty says that I don’t have to think. Just walk in this lane and this lane only. Anyone who is not in this lane is bad.

What we need is discussion. What we need is listening. I know that there are people who have been saying this for a while. I am not original or unique. This little blog I write… well, it’s just a small thing. But by writing this, I am reinforcing my belief that we need to come together. We need to look beyond party loyalty. We need to look at our humanity.

I need to be willing to hear a different point of view and be willing to admit that I may be wrong. I don’t have any solution, but what I can do is enter into quiet contemplation. I can be quick to see where others are right. While I will most likely vote straight Democrat, I will not separate myself from my fellow humans by declaring that Blue is the only way to go.

So today, try to spend some time listening. Maybe listen to another point of view and try to understand where that person is ‘coming from.’ Chances are, we all share common values and beliefs. It’s easy to say my way is better, but we can only experience true joy when we realize the connectedness of everyone and everything.

Why Secrets Keep Us Sick

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It’s pretty common around people in 12-step programs to hear, “You’re only as sick as your secrets.” Honesty is stressed. Telling our secrets, even if it’s just to one other person, can set us free. But what is it about keeping secrets that keeps us sick?

Humans need connection. Keeping secrets make us feel separate, disconnected. If I’m keeping a secret about something I did or something that happened to me, I’m actually believing that if you knew this you would know how sick and disgusting I am and I would be alone.  Therefore, I will bury this secret so deep that even I will forget about it. Denial can be a life-saving coping skill at times, but eventually, it will kill us.

It makes me wonder if the ’cause’ of many people’s relapse is the secrets they are keeping. See, secrets are usually about shame. As Brene Brown puts it in her TED talk “The Power of Vulnerability,” shame is believing that “something about me, that if other people know it or see it, I won’t be worthy of connection.”

So the key, it seems, is learning that this thing, however bad it is, does not make me unworthy of love and connection. It is letting go of that thing that makes all the difference. Letting go of the shame and accepting this thing as part of me is how I become whole. I accept all parts of me, all of my experiences, all that I am.

If it’s that simple, why do we still keep secrets? For the most part, it’s fear of being vulnerable. When Brene Brown talks about vulnerability, she describes it as doing something even when there are no guarantees.

When we are vulnerable, we feel connected. Doing the 5th step is all about vulnerability.  But sometimes, we need professional help to be vulnerable. Even people with a lot of time in the program often find the need to seek outside help.

If we’re afraid of vulnerability, speaking without knowing what the reaction will be, then often a therapist can help. It is their job to hear you and be accepting. It is their job to help you through it. When you talk to a therapist, it’s like side-stepping vulnerability because you have a guarantee that you will be OK even if you tell this horrible secret.

And that is how we become whole.

So, my message is this: If you are keeping a secret that you swear no one will ever know, please find a way to let it out. You are worthy of connection. You are worthy of love and acceptance. Otherwise, your secret could very well kill you.

Just Because I Can…

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***I came across this post in my ‘Drafts” folder. I’m not sure why I didn’t publish it before. But the lesson means as much today as it did then. I am reminded to be OK with small steps, small progresses. When there is so much to do, doing one simple thing is always better than doing nothing.


Just because I can doesn’t mean that I should. I think that was a car commercial a while back, but it is also so important for me right now.

Discernment: being able to judge well. I love this word because it means not just making a choice, but being able to see nuances and “being able to grasp and comprehend what is obscure” (from Merriam Webster Dictionary). It is an active process, weighing probabilities and consequences.

I often have a profound lack of discernment.

Monday, I was ‘released’ by my doctor to shed the boot and put full weight on my left foot. Yeah! When I got home, I was all over the place, wobbling and careening on my foot that hadn’t really been used for three months. It even felt good (emotionally) to stand and do the dishes.

That night I paid for it, having to ice my ankle and keep it elevated. But I did the same thing again the next day. Then my physical therapist came and clipped my wings.

The thing is, the way I was “walking” would lead to eventual injury, and would possibly leave me limping for the rest of my life. I needed to learn to walk properly. It was so frustrating to have to go back to crutches. I mean, without them I could carry things all by myself.

Fortunately, I listened. I’ve been focusing on using correct gait and strengthening my foot and ankle. I had to practice restraint.

Isn’t that so important with everything? Restraint of pen and tongue. Restrain myself from over-spending (and many other over-doing things). As I gain more freedom, discernment becomes more and more important. My choices mean more, to more people.

As I sit and wiggle my toes and flex my foot, I am reminded how important it is to find that spiritual center. I need to weigh my actions, take time to be silent and reflect before making rash decision. Do I want to hurtle and crash through life or calmly build my steps and progress towards an ultimately fulfilling future?

Like Learning the Violin…

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I heard someone say that early recovery is like learning to play a musical instrument. At first, it’s so hard, and nothing makes sense, and your fingers hurt, and frankly, it’s not much fun. But once you get the hang of it, it becomes easier and enjoyable.

I kept thinking about how that analogy continues. A great joy of most musicians is sharing their music with others, and a great joy of many people in recovery is to work with newcomers and share what they have learned.

And sometimes, things don’t always work out right. Strings do break. This may seem like a tragedy to the new player, and learning to replace a string seems almost overwhelming. But after a while, they learn how to handle these little bumps in the road with barely a passing thoughts, just as we in recovery learn to handle life’s ups and downs without getting too excited.

And some days, it just feels awkward. And some days are challenging, like when learning a new composition. As we go through life’s phases, we gain an understanding that we will be able “to get through this.” We keep learning, keep making music, keep growing spiritually.

And when we learn to play together, in harmony, we make magic.

Reach Out… Please, Reach Out.

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Please know that you are not alone. If no-one knows the trouble you are having, no-one can help.

I got to witness a tremendous outpouring of love tonight. A woman came to a meeting, broken, afraid, spiritually and physically hungry. She sat by herself, then told a little of her story. She was in crisis and it was heartbreaking. I did not want her to sit alone.

I got up and sat beside her. I felt like I was holding a safe place for her. She reached for my hand and held it tight and cried.

After the meeting, she was surrounded by loving and caring women. I saw the truth of the saying, “We will love you until you can love yourself.”

It felt like a tremendous gift to be there and I felt honored that she felt safe enough to reach out and accept our gifts.

If you see someone who is hurting, reach put and offer a space for them to connect with another human being. If you are hurting, reach out and give others the gift of letting God work through them. We are all connected. Compassion is the key.

Everything Is Awful, Everything Is Broken

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Put your fears to rest
You know it’s for the best
As a choir of angels sings:

…everything is awful.

—Lyrics from “Everything is Awful” by The Decemberists.

I heard this song on the radio the other day, followed immediately by Bob Dylan’s “Everything is Broken.” It was a gorgeous early spring day. I was happy.

Yes, I was happy even though it is true, everything is awful and everything is broken. For me, it was like a message that what the world looks like is not necessarily what matters. Sometimes things have to get awful and things have to break for new things to take their place.

Here is a comment that was left at the website Genius,

On a few occasions, Colin has referred to this song as a Trump-era “state of the union song.” The pessimistic nature of the lyrics is contrasted with the jovial “la la la la la” refrain and the gang chorus at the end.

These songs also reminded me to not take everything, especially myself, so seriously. Folks in recovery might know this as “Rule 62.” All I can do is what is in front of me. I do what I can, each day, and if I live today well I will be OK.

I cannot give in to the pessimistic, defeatist attitude. There is a higher order, whatever your religious/spiritual/philosophical beliefs. Everything is connected. Everything is One.

If you have ever walked a labyrinth, you know that there is one path in and one path out. It is all the same path. It looks like people are ahead of you or behind, moving toward you or away. Yet it is all one path. We are just at different places, constantly moving. No one place is better or worse than another because it is all one path. Just keep moving.