I love watching a good magician. Willingly I suspend disbelief even knowing that a practical, non-magical explanation exists for every illusion. Magic isn’t real; I’m watching tricks done by using mirrors, trap doors and clever misdirection.
When someone gets us to focus on one thing — something insignificant but shiny — so we miss the big thing, the real thing taking place, that’s misdirection. And Merlin’s apprentices aren’t the only ones skilled at it. Con artists, addicts, manipulators, a few media organizations and some government officials (aspiring or elected) practice misdirection too.
They do it because misdirection works. Done well – with a clear end game in mind by those doing the misdirecting – misdirection can trigger other events, such as getting misinformed citizens so riled about lies, misinformation and half-truths that we jump on bandwagons taking us someplace we don’t want or need to go. Meanwhile we don’t see the real thing, that thing we should see and understand, until it’s too late.
I love technology and will be the first (or third) to upgrade to all promised increases in connectivity speed. I surround myself with recent technology released by PC and Mac. I also believe that most things aren’t good or bad in and of themselves but it’s the use or abuse of things that make them good or bad. With that said, the internet has become a favored tool to perpetuate widespread misdirection. Anyone with a few bucks and access to the internet can access the minds of anyone who can read or hear and has internet access and that translates to millions if not billions of people around the globe.
In the old days when we relied on organizations like the Associated Press for news, we didn’t need to fact-check what we read. But getting our information haphazardly from the internet changes – or should change – the experience of reading for us. What we read on the internet may or may not be factual. The sources for the writing may or may not be credible. There may or may not even be sources for what we read because we may be reading someone’s personal opinion, an opinion that may have been based on misinformation.
Did you ever participate in a bonding 101 exercise where you and other people sit on chairs in a circle and the first person whispers something to the next, who’s supposed to repeat what he or she heard by whispering it to the next person, until the message returns to the person who started it? Usually, the message has changed substantially by that time, bearing little if any resemblance to the original one.
It’s a challenge to communicate clearly and honestly. It’s easy to spread rumors, lies, innuendos and half-truths even when that’s not our intention.
I had a friend who regularly called me in that breathless, drama-addict tone that many of us have grown to hate. On any given day, he’d be in a tither about, for instance, how “people were waking up in hotel room bathtubs minus their kidneys after going out on one date” and any number of other bizarre urban legends. On any given day, after listening to my friend’s most recent horrific story, I’d ask him to identify the source of his information. The real source. That’s when I’d hear silence, followed by the almost-discernible fizzle as his drama balloon popped. For a while, I made it my personal mission to train my friend to distinguish fact from fiction but I failed. He enjoyed the drama rush too much.
Despite my friend’s desire to cling to fantasy, I’m still convinced that most people prefer fact to mistruth, hyperbole and lies — especially when the information concerns events directly affecting us.
Right now, I’m busy writing (because that’s what I do for a living) and with renovating my home and office (because that’s where I live and work). I haven’t made my online forums a priority because I can only do one thing well at once (and occasionally have difficulty with that). But last week, on October 1, 2013, a new priority rose to the top of my list when a group of lawmakers who some elected officials refer openly to as “extremist Republicans” took actions that look similar to holding President Obama and the federal government hostage.
Issues raised by the “extremist Republicans” include whether to lift the nation’s debt ceiling and an attempt to at least postpone if not repeal the Affordable Health Care Act, even though it’s been voted into legislation, integrated into the first steps of action and upheld each of the past 43 times the Republicans tried to get the Affordable Health Care Law repealed.
People on death row don’t get as many appeals as the Republicans have sought. Opposing lawmakers describe the extremist Republicans’ behavior as similar to throwing a temper tantrum because they didn’t get their way. But unlike a child’s tantrum, until this group of Republicans get what they want, they have begun and will continue to defund not the government but our government and country – actions with potentially devastating, disastrous long and short-term consequences.
National parks shut down first.
Next to be defunded (if they’re not already) will be federal programs that help the nine women and one man who die daily in the United States from domestic violence and federal programs helping the four children under age five who die daily in this country from abuse, usually at the hands of people entrusted with caring for them.
Social Security payments will stop on October 17th, 2013, when the Rad Republicans defund that program.
Next begins the United States defaulting on their debts which will rock our economy beyond anything we can comprehend.
I haven’t heard or read about any plans to defund the paychecks for the “extremist Republicans” holding our country hostage but I wish that would happen until these lawmakers begin behaving in a manner befitting elected officials.
Topics like “the debt ceiling” and “the Affordable Health Care Act” (also known as ObamaCare) can appear too complicated to understand but they’re not. It’s crucial that we each strive to understand these issues, as quickly as possible.
We can be strange creatures, we human beings. It’s common – often instinctive – to overreact, when stressed, to minutia as we do the turning molehills into mountains thing. It’s also common to underreact when a legitimate crisis occurs.
That’s what’s happening now. That’s why I’m writing this blog. I’m writing (and yelling), “Fire.” “Run.” “Look out.” “Do something and do it fast.”
I’m a registered Democrat but have voted for candidates from both parties. In the last two presidential elections, I voted for Barrack Obama. I believe that now and especially later as we get the perspective brought only by retrospect, President Barrack Obama will be known historically as one of our greatest presidents.
In recent months, I began asking people if they’ve been harmed in any way by ObamaCare, and if so, exactly how. Not one person has reported suffering any harm or unwanted changes in their medical care from passage of the Affordable Health Care Act. Some people have even gone so far as to tell me that ObamaCare helped them. “Finally, I have health insurance,” said one woman in her mid-thirties whose pre-existing medical conditions prevented her from getting insurance until ObamaCare made it possible.
The Affordable Health Care Act (and State Farm Insurance) saved my life. I had just hit my lifetime cap on my private health insurance policy when the first stage of ObamaCare kicked in, lifting the lifetime cap. This year, the cost of my health insurance premiums decreased by almost $2000 a quarter. So far, I haven’t met with or talked to one person who’s been harmed by ObamaCare but I have found people who have been significantly helped by it. (Online reports in forums from people I don’t personally know and who are hiding behind a fake identity don’t count in my information-gathering process.)
I know this subject is editorial and not the typical blog I post. I also understand that politics shouldn’t influence recovery but they do. Rehabilitation programs that have been systematically defunded over the years, treatment increasingly made available only to people of means or with fantastic insurance, is now scheduled to be available to everyone through President Obama’s Affordable Health Care Act beginning in 2014.
Last week, I stopped writing and stopped working on the house and office redo because I believe that the current situation with the federal government is a crisis and should be treated like one by each of us.
I contacted the people I voted for, asked them what they were doing about what’s taking place (or not taking place), and then stated clearly what my interests are and what I want in the hopes that officials I helped elect could properly represent my interests in Washington D.C. I share my political views with you not so you will believe what I believe, but to encourage you to understand what you believe – to deliberately seek to make an informed opinion based on fact and then contact your elected officials and tell them, so they can represent you in D.C., too.
An aside: it’s not the government. It’s our country and our government – one of the people, by the people, for the people. But our elected officials can’t represent our interests if we don’t let them know what our interests are. We are the people. It’s time to begin acting like it.
If you don’t know what you believe, find out. If you don’t understand the current shutdown, watch some legitimate news programs presenting more than superficial fluff pieces.
Elected officials used to be called “Public Servants.” It’s time to expect them to behave that way by serving the needs of their constituency instead of serving their own personal interests.
Enjoy magic tricks, but not when they’re done by the government. Stop falling for the shiny spectacles, loud voices and other misdirections. Seek a greater truth and then take action based on it.
That’s when the real magic begins.
From the desk of Melody Beattie
October 6, 2013
I’m not an art connoisseur. Can’t even draw good stick figures. Cameras make me nervous.
Most of my life, I thought art was optional, something for those in the elite class and the highest level obtainable on Maslow’s Hierarchy of needs. I’ve tried climbing that pyramid Maslow identified as human motivators. Just when I’m ready to move up to the next level, I tumble back down into survival mode and start trying to get back up. Again.
It’s tough to appreciate Monet when you’re supporting a family of three on $800 a month or going to the cemetery to visit your deceased son.
The first indication that there’s more to art than I knew and that art affected my life more than I thought occurred the first time I visited the Louvre. I was on my way to Algeria, researching the subject of terrorism.
As I stared, enraptured, at the original Mona Lisa my thinking went from It’s just oil on canvas to This is something bigger than me, something mystical, sublime, miraculous. Three times I tried walking away from the painting. It kept pulling me back, until it was ready to release me.
My next paradigm shift concerning art happened recently, after a friend called. She began talking to me about CLARE, a substance abuse program currently helping her daughter.
Just like with the Mona Lisa at the Louvre, I found myself pulled in, magnetized and drawn. Despite the surgeries, pain and work schedule I faced, I visited CLARE, interviewing the staff, touring the program and promising to write a blog about them.
While researching this blog, my art education continued. I learned that art can include making a coffee table, computer or founding a treatment center. And it can be painting a portrait of a woman named Mona.
Art is what we imagine and then create. It has form and substance. It’s a way to communicate.
Art isn’t superfluous nor is it reserved for the elite.
An invention that meets an unmet need, a painting, book, movie or television series – all art. Art meets many needs. Comes in many forms. Art serves a purpose, no matter where we are on Maslow’s Hierarchy.
CLARE is art, surpassing one definition of the word offered by Guy Kawasaki: “The best reason to start an organization is to make meaning – to create a product or service to make the world a better place.”
Founded in 1970 from the vision of a small group of addicts who wanted to help homeless alcoholics on Venice Beach, CLARE — with the efforts of 67 staff members, 75 volunteers and 21 board members (and many friends and supporters) — now serves 30,000 adults and young people every year.
They offer referral services, in-house detox, long-term residential substance abuse treatment based on a combined 12 Step/Social model for men and CLARE offers separate residential treatment for women. CLARE has several sober living centers, including one for women with children. They offer intensive outpatient treatment. They have Drug Court, drinking driver programs, and Clarity for Youth, an education and prevention program.
The cost of residential treatment at CLARE amounts to a modest $2,000 a month. For people highly-motivated to get clean and sober but without funds or insurance, CLARE offers full scholarships. As long as there’s money, they do anyway.
DeJuan “DJ” Verrett, part of CLARE’s staff and a California native, DJ spent 16 years, 10 months and 3 days of his 42-year- life in prison for drug-related charges. A life-awakening experience that occurred in prison motivated DJ to help others. Now he strives to inspire people by example. He first became involved with CLARE as part of a speaking panel, then later as an intern while in school, before joining as a staff member.
DJ recently wrote and published a book he hopes will inspire people in any kind of prison of their own making to look inside and then recreate their lives. The book, An Inside Job: From Life in a Maze to an Amazing Life can be found at www.amazon.com/author/aninsidejob.
The most rewarding part of DJ’s work at CLARE is seeing clients take an active role in rescuing themselves. “But the most heartbreaking part of my job is telling potential clients that we can’t help them because of (lack of) funding,” DJ said.
A private non-profit, CLARE – like many other treatment programs – has had government financial contributions cut back annually, motivating them to raise the money themselves that they need.
So CLARE holds bake sales.
They host an annual Friends of CLARE Tribute Dinner. For their contributions to public education and raising consciousness, the November 2012 event honored Liz Brixius and Linda Wallem, co-creators of Nurse Jackie and CLARE paid tribute to Maurice LaMarche, a two-time Emmy-winning voice actor.
Nurse Jackie, a story about the struggles of an addicted nurse as she hits bottom and then begins recovering, is a weekly television series. Although billed as a comedy, this popular brilliantly written, acted, directed and produced show can as easily bring tears to viewers as it can provoke them to laughter.
This dinner raised $400,000. As with all funds CLARE’s efforts produce, 84 cents of each dollar goes directly to programs.
In their efforts to continue serving the community and growing, CLARE also holds silent auctions. This year’s 7th Annual Silent Auction will be held at the Bergamot Station, 2525 Michigan Avenue in Santa Monica from 1 to 4:00 p.m. on Sunday, June 2nd. Tickets cost $25 if purchased in advance; $30 at the door.
Auction art consists of contributions from gifted local artists: photographs, drawings and paintings done using water color, chalk, acrylics, oil or a combination of materials — even an unique IPhone picture done on aluminum. The art also includes paintings by Meredith Baxter, a long-term CLARE supporter, and Sir Anthony Hopkins. Some of the art to be auctioned can be previewed at www.clarefoundation.org/arteventpresent.html.
Gift cards, televisions, and other items – all new — will also be offered at the silent auction.
While murmurs of funding increasing sometime in 2014 because Substance Abuse will take its rightful place on the list of ten essential health care benefits providers must offer under the federal Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, questions dim premature celebratory reactions. Will insurance companies skillfully jump through the loophole of pre-existing conditions to avoid payment for substance abusers? If forced to pay for treatment, will insurance companies then dictate which treatment models must be used and the length (or brevity) of treatment?
A turning point occurred in 2012 when President Obama and other World Leaders met for a Summit, officially labeling the War on Drugs declared in 1970 by former President Richard M. Nixon a multi trillion dollar failure. Until then, government’s part in this War has been to attack the supply side and increasingly ignore what people on the demand side need. Now empirical data shows that long-term treatment is more effective with addicts than 28-day treatment, and treatment less costly than imprisonment.
“CLARE? Yeah, I’ve heard of them. They’re great!” said one local woman who has been in recovery for 15 years.
“I respect CLARE. They’re good,” said Dr. Forest Tennant, a pain management and addictions specialist.
Not busy this weekend and live in SoCal? Don’t live in the Los Angeles area but want to view some stunning artwork online? Need a place to send a loved one for substance abuse treatment? Have an abundance and looking for a good charity to give a donation? Need an answer for friends who ask if you know about any good and affordable treatment centers?
CLARE. Located at 909 Pico Boulevard, Santa Monica, CA 90405. You can visit them online at www.clarefoundation.org or call at 310-314-6200.
They’ve got a whole lot of art going on.
From the Desk of Melody Beattie
May 31, 2013
1. Recently I was driving from the desert back to my home. Inside my desert cottage, a patio door separates two rooms. Usually I keep that door shut but I decided to close it. Then I got in the car and realized I’d forgotten something inside the house.
I was hurried. I wanted to leave after traffic rush but before the highways closed for nighttime repairs. I ran back into the house – smack into the closed patio doors so clean I couldn’t even see them. I knew I’d hurt myself; it was the kind of trauma you know will have an impact.
After getting home, I began looking for a doctor to correctly diagnose and solve the problems my incident created. Two of my doctors had died in the past several years. Finding a new doctor, a good one, isn’t easy. I started asking for referrals from people – including the doctor I had but whose specialty wasn’t fixing someone who ran into doors.
I got nowhere fast. Each appointment took an entire day. Either I didn’t trust the doctor or I knew immediately that his diagnosis was incorrect. My physical situation worsened the longer this fruitless search lasted. I worried. I felt alone. I worried more. I did not know how to solve this problem and couldn’t get any answers, no matter who I asked.
During this time, I went to consult another doctor for another issue I had. While I was in his reception area, I visited with one of his employees. She began telling me about a consultant from another county that came into this office but only on Fridays. As it worked out, he was an expert in the field that I needed an expert in and it was also Friday. He found time to meet with me that day.
All that worrying and the answer had been planned. What a waste of energy, I thought. More than that, I felt cared about and guided — touched by my Higher Power.
2. A few weeks later, I decided it was time to look at my goals and set some new ones. Goals bring energy into my life. They help me co-create it.
Silly, but one thing I put on the list was I wanted to see the Rolling Stones in concert four more times during my life. Less than a week later, they announced their upcoming tour. I have two tickets, fourth row seats, for May 20th, six days before my birthday.
Coincidence? Maybe. Whatever it was or is, it made me feel good. Happy.
3. Probably from the series of surgeries I’ve been through. Or maybe it was the embezzlement. Or it could be one of the other struggles I’m going through but I began suffering from a deep, embedded feeling of being unloved and uncared for – by anyone.
I know I’m connected to every sentient being. That’s one thing. Feeling loved by any human being, especially a Mother or Father is another. The broken circle with my mother had been healed a few moments before her death. But I missed having been loved. I wondered what it would have felt like, how it might have changed my life and some of my experiences.
Both my parents have passed so chances were minimal that they’d tell me now if they had moments of caring for or loving me.
Shortly after being overwhelmed by this – and please, I don’t want to call it self-pity — someone on one of my sites asked if they could send me a personal e-mail. I don’t often give out my personal address; it’s all I can do to keep up with my forums and e-mails now. But I said yes.
The woman wrote and told me that she had met my father before his death. She said he went on and on about how much he loved me and how proud he was of me – two things he’d never told me while he was alive.
In Lessons of Love, the book about my son, Shane’s, death, I wrote about how when I was young – two or three – my father took me to bars with him. He was a musician. He’d play the piano and I’d dance for him and others.
“She learned to dance for herself,” he told this woman. “That’s an accomplishment.”
Even though we may know that our HP is real, it can become easy to start thinking that He (or She) forgot our name or address or maybe we’ve done something wrong, something that put distance between us.
It’s okay to feel however we feel. Not just okay, but essential. It’s important to accept our emotions so they don’t fester and harm our lives. But if I ever get the blues again, begin wondering if my Higher Power knows where I live or remembers my name, I give you permission to either hose me down with cold water, accuse me of having short-term memory loss, or give me a raspberry award.
We’re guided. Led. On time. We can worry, but we don’t have to. We’re right where we’re meant to be.
From the Desk of Melody Beattie
May 12, 2013
Last week I asked someone to help me do something. While that might not sound like a big deal, it is. Sometimes I call “flipping the coin” and being the exact opposite of codependent “recovery.” I replace annoying neediness with fierce independence: I can do it myself; don’t need any help; not going to be vulnerable to anyone.
That’s not recovery. It is, as I just wrote, flipping to the other side of the codependent side of the codependent coin.
When I can step out of my reactions to my past, step beyond my fear and truly do something different? That’s recovery. Not baby steps but big steps in my life.
It’s those moments when I remember to do different that make such a difference and I’ll tell you why if you can hang in here with me. The situation was complex and felt overwhelming. I’m in California, stuck with a condo in Minnesota that I owe more on than it’s currently worth. To sell it would mean sitting down at a closing and writing out a $50,000 check to pay off the mortgage. Not for me.
About a year ago, I took the condo off the market. Waiting and I didn’t know for what. I know from the past that it takes time for the housing market to recycle. Recently I decided to rent out the condo. I resisted the idea at first because: I’m half-way across the country from the property, unable to handle the calls in the middle of night about the garbage disposal not working or the toilet running.
But studying some online sites, I found a realtor who also takes care of renting out properties and he has a property manager that takes care of garbage disposals and toilets that don’t work in the middle of the night.
But my Minnesota condo was fully furnished. I was in a quandary (whatever a quandary looks like) about what to do with the furniture. My California condo is furnished with furniture I like. I have a small mobile vacation home in the desert but I bought that fully furnished with furniture I like. I decided to rent the Minnesota condo furnished. According to all the statistics, someone would get divorced and need a new place to live and furniture too.
No such luck. Everyone who looked at the condo wanted me to take out my furniture because he or she or they had their own. But even that wasn’t a problem because nobody stepped up to the plate with an offer – until recently. A month before I’m scheduled to go to the desert and right when I’m scheduled for an important surgery and also right when the writing I’ve been struggling with finally begins to fall into place. Not only did I write six words on the page, I know the order in which they should go. Progress. Right?
I talked to a friend and we came up with a plan. We’d drive together from California to Minnesota, rent a U-Haul, donate whatever furniture I didn’t want (carrying it down three flights of stairs first), load the rest in the U-Haul and find someone to uninstall the electronics and do what with them? Didn’t know. It would only take … counting, counting …. two or three weeks? And cost, hmm. thousands of dollars? My friend had to work. He could take some time off. It felt messy, complicated and most of all – wrong.
I had to do something and do it now. But, what? The words I had to say are the hardest for me to speak: I didn’t know.
This is where the title of this blog enters the picture. I feel comfortable when I know the answer and hate it when I don’t about what to do to solve a problem. The gap between knowing and not knowing is radical faith – faith that what I need will be provided even if I don’t see those provisions yet and even if I don’t know what the solution is.
I made one of the better decisions I’ve made for some time. I decided to let go and do nothing, despite the realtor pressuring me and others wanting to know what I intended to do and when I would do it. All I could say was the truth: I don’t know.
I made a clear decision not to do anything until what I decided to do felt right.
Huge. Cataclysmically enormous for me, putting off a decision until some solution I couldn’t see fell into place meant taking a deep breath and Living in the Mystery. That’s what the title of this blog means and what I did was practice what I preach.
I let go.
A few days later, I thought of a friend I knew in Minnesota. Shipping was her thing. She had been a trained professional. She ran a shipping store the entire time her children were growing up – a family business. Plus I knew she had moved frequently over the past years, since her children left home. I also knew she got a good deal on moving vans.
I took a deep breath, looked through my email addresses and found hers. I reached out and asked her for help.
She said yes, she would be glad to assist me.
In a matter of hours I saw what had been an insolvable problem began to get solved. Each piece – from uninstalling the electronics, to selling them on E-Bay and what to charge, to shipping my furniture out to where I am without an exorbitant charge – fell into place. Like magic. Like a miracle. Like an unspoken but felt prayer answered perfectly. Blind or radical faith was the prayer. The answer? Getting the problem perfectly solved.
The moving van will be scheduled at an entirely reasonable price by the end of this week. I’ll make enough money by her daughter selling the electronics (after paying her a commission) to pay for the moving van (this according to people who know what they’re talking about and triple-checked).
I don’t have to take two to three weeks out of my schedule to run around master-minding this when I can’t carry more than five pounds down three flights of steps. My friend here won’t need to take off from work.
By letting go and doing nothing until what I did felt right, I found the perfect solution – even when that meant living with no solution at all for a while.
Sometimes living in the mystery hurts. It means living with painful losses that I can’t explain and my Higher Power won’t. On other occasions, trusting what I don’t know yet feels good. This is one of those times.
Just a short reminder of something you probably already know but that’s easy to forget when we get stressed – a Holiday greeting of sorts. Keep breathing your way through the Season. If what you’re doing doesn’t feel right, it’s okay to do nothing until what you do feels good to you. The answer will come; I know it will – the answer that’s perfect for you.
From the desk of Melody Beattie
Selena, a friend for many years, called today. She felt uncomfortable, she said. And sad. She told me about a recent and profound over-reaction she experienced in response to a situation with a long-term friend. Her awareness told her that the depth of her reaction meant that she’s not only dealing with today; her gut-load of emotions are remnants of the past.
We call those incidents triggers. While the current event has importance, the meaning extends beyond that. It’s a situation Life brought to us to bring about a healing.
It’s common for people on a growth path to run into situational triggers – events that are real today, but also remind us of yesterday – a time when we lacked the skills or support to feel our emotions and deal with the dilemma.
So like Selena, we pack the feelings away and save them for a special time when we won’t need to rely on denial. That time may be now.
Selena didn’t go into detail about the problem with her friend; she wanted to keep the focus on herself. She said it involved her friend calling to tell Selena how she felt about something that Selena either did or neglected to do that caused her friend to feel hurt, angry and disrespected.
“But instead of listening to what my friend had to say, I went into defensive mode,” Selena said. “I didn’t feel superior. I didn’t think I was right and my friend was wrong. The truth is I wronged my friend by not listening to and being present for her.
‘When my friend became angry with me,” Selena said, “I felt attacked.
“I’ve been in recovery for a while. I know how to take responsibility for my part instead of focusing on someone else’s behavior. But even though I knew what to do, I didn’t do it. And I didn’t apologize either,” Selena said.
I asked her what she did instead of listening.
“Mid-sentence, I hung up the phone,” Selena said. “Then I didn’t call her back. For a week.”
Time can be a powerful healer but by itself, time may not heal our issues. Time can let us cool heated emotions. We have time to let the hurt or angry moment pass. Sometimes we become so focused on the argument that we don’t recall exactly what we argued about. That thing that was so important becomes a secondary issue to our hurt feelings.
If we’re lucky and give the situation clear thought, we may find we can use the incident as a catalyst for change. It starts by focusing on what’s up with us instead of glaring at the other person, ranting about what he or she did wrong.
After Selena up on her friend and took some time to calm herself, she looked deeper inside herself. She knows what it means when people say, Recovery is an inside job.
“I can see now that for the past couple months my self-esteem has been flagging — almost non-existent,” Selena said. “This insight surprised me – but I’ll take it. It’s an unexpected but welcomed gift.”
She said her self-esteem problem now felt as big and painful as when, years ago, she first began recovery – those months when she felt so fragile.
“Back then, when I discovered I wasn’t crazy I was codependent, I couldn’t endure criticism. Again it wasn’t because I felt superior or right. I had so little esteem that someone criticizing me felt like a threat to my life.
“I feel like such a failure and I have so little self-esteem that if I make one more mistake and someone calls me on it, or accuses me of wrongdoing and I admit it, I feel like there won’t be anything of me left.”
I know that feeling too.
Selena said that’s why instead of making amends as she knew she should, she hung up on her friend.
“I feel awful about hurting my friend and letting her down,” Selena explained. “It’s not about me not living up to someone else’s expectations. I didn’t live up to my expectations of myself.
“A week passed. By then I’d become calm and I saw the situation more clearly. I sent my friend an email with a sincere apology. I would have apologized directly, but she didn’t answer my calls. In my email to her, I included some information about my issues – explanations for my behavior, but I didn’t use these reasons as justifications or excuse. I told her how much she meant to me. I apologized, and I meant it,” Selena said.
I’m waiting for the but, for what Selena wanted from me. Then I got it.
“So ever since I sent my amends to her I’ve been obsessively watching my emails for a response from her, “Selena admitted. “I didn’t apologize to get a response. I know we’re not supposed to be attached to outcomes. But we’ve been close for so long. I wanted her to tell me it’s okay. I wanted to feel peace and closeness between us.”
Selena wanted her friend back. She wanted closure on the event.
I know this story is closer to a meditation than a blog. It would fit in a book of daily readings I wrote years ago — The Language of Letting Go.
That’s what Selena forgot to do: let go. But there’s still one more thing, something important Selena needed to do as part of taking responsibility for herself.
Most of us want to be good, decent people. We try to live by the Golden Rule, doing unto others as we want done unto us. But we’re not perfect and we’re not meant to be. That’s why they invented six short words: I am sorry; I was wrong.
Sometimes after we cool from the heat of the moment, look inside ourselves, take responsibility for our actions and make appropriate amends – including letting go of the outcome of doing that – some circumstances require that we take one more action.
It’s why Selena called me and it’s the point of this meditative blog — that’s how important this piece can be.
If we’ve cleaned up our side of the street but we’re still not at peace because the other person didn’t give us the closure we need, then it may be time to let ourselves off the hook.
From the Desk of Melody Beattie
November 8, 2012
There are two ways to clean a room or a house: surface and deep.
You can straighten up piles of stuff, get rid of obvious dirt, vacuum, dust and do dishes, but when you open your closets or kitchen drawers, they’re stuffed with junk, clutter and crap. Lift up the carpet and you’ll find years of dust and crud.
Or if you have time and like a truly clean environment, you can start at the bottom of things, organize all the drawers and closets, throw away or find a home for what’s not utilitarian to you and end up with a home that when you look at, know is clean through and through.
To do that (deep clean), we often need to first make a bigger mess than the one we had before while we sift through stuff, organize, make decisions and then create order out of the chaos. When we finish, it’s much easier to maintain a clean home because the old adage reigns: there’s a place for everything and everything is where it belongs.
Many people, including me, use house-cleaning as a metaphor for personal inventories and staying current with our emotions, relationships and belief systems. If you’re reading this blog, likely you’re someone who wants a clean, well-organized home – both the physical structure we live in and the body – emotions, mind and soul – that house us throughout our lifetime.
As we spend more time growing, we have more events to organize and deal with the impact from in our lives – divorces, breakups, loss, betrayals and other nasty goings-on that we’ve come to call “learning experiences.” We find and share with others ways to reorganize our lives, deal with our emotions and then reframe our pasts in such a way that we’re no longer victims – of Life, other people, and especially ourselves.
The longer we’ve been consciously seeking to live decent and moral lives, lives that don’t hurt others or ourselves, the more we have a filing system for events that take place and the emotions that result from them. We develop systems for dealing with the pain, sadness, grief and fear that come attached to life events. We feel and release our emotions because we want to stay clear and in balance. Doing this, we believe, allows us to make the best decisions possible now and in our future.
It sounds good on paper. But the one emotion that I’ve yet to find an adequate filing cabinet, a means of organization for or even a place to put it is the pernicious, vengeful and sometimes downright evil events that transpire and the anger I feel as a result of them.
“What have you been so edgy about,” my roommate asked recently.
“I’ve got all this anger and I have no place to go with it,” I said. “The people I’m angry at are waltzing around far enough away from me that likely I won’t encounter them again. I don’t have an opportunity to tell them how furious I am, how their behavior impacted me and I don’t have the ability or power to insist that they make these situations right.”
My voice quavered slightly and I could tell I had slid into that place where we’re so damn angry we cry. We’re livid, outraged and incensed and have to place to go with it.
I don’t want these emotions inside me. I don’t want to take them out on innocent bystanders. I also don’t want to turn the emotions inward and take them out on myself.
Now this is rhetorical, which means all of you loving and caring people don’t need to rescue me or solve this problem for me. I know about getting an air bat or using our hands and beating a pillow. I know about primal scream therapy. I know that exercise helps. But the pillow didn’t do anything wrong and I don’t want to hit it.
I don’t want to break dishes.
I don’t want to punish people who didn’t do anything to me.
I do understand why some people have the experience we label “going postal.” The person who receives the result of all this unresolved anger had nothing to do with it; he or she was just the person who happened to be there when all the anger we’ve stuffed into utility drawers, hid under the carpet and crammed into our closets finally emerged.
Exploded may be more like it.
We live in a society that’s now legislated anger. If we honk our horn while driving, likely we’ll end up in anger management class, which only ticks us off more. If we dump on the person who we know violated us, the predator – not the victim – will often be the person protected by the law.
We can journal, see a therapist, tell a friend how we’re feeling but often these attempts to find release and redemption do not equal the level of fury we feel.
“Seek and ye shall find.”
I know each of us will find an answer to the anger dilemma — a safe and legal way to deal with and organize the anger we feel. Not the surface irritation, but the deep rage bubbling inside us that we feel on our way to forgiveness, acceptance and peace.
To forgive too soon causes cancer.
Often, the subtle awareness and consciousness of such a dilemma as this means we’re closer than we realize to finding a solution – one that works for us and doesn’t hurt other people, even the ones we may fantasize about hurting.
Those who have read my writing for any length of time know I don’t have many rules, but the ones I adhere to are: don’t hurt yourself or others, and don’t let people harm you. I do not advocate violence and I oppose the death penalty. Dying isn’t punishment.
I’m deliberately leaving this blog open-ended. Remember its title? Living in the Mystery.
This subject fits into that category.
It’s not wrong to feel anger but harboring it can have consequences we may not prefer. I want the peace we find to be the kind that results from deep, not surface, cleaning.
If over the course of the next three days or nights you hear a strange, pulsating scream, one that shakes your home similar to the way a 3.2 earthquake would but you check online and no earthquake occurred, don’t worry. You’ll know I found my answer.
I got my anger out.
From the desk of Melody Beattie
October 2, 2012
No, I don’t mean a clogged kitchen sink or a shower stall that empties slowly.
I’m talking about allowing people, places and things to slowly and insidiously creep in and begin sucking the soul, energy, life force – and resources – out of us. No matter how many years ago we learned about not being codependent, it can still happen to us. Again.
Drain Pain occurs so slowly and subtly, we may not see it happening. Following you’ll find a list of symptoms and the remedy for each:
- We leave our bodies – disconnect from ourselves. We’re experts at fleeing the body. We hover around ourselves doing everything except feeling what we feel and valuing ourselves. When this happens, we often feel numb, confused and afraid. We may also feel emotional (generalized) pain. The thoughts that accompany this condition include: I CAN’T STAND THIS ANYMORE. IT, HE, SHE OR THEY IS OR ARE DRIVING ME INSANE. This means it’s boundary-setting time again.
- We complain about the same thing, behavior or person or problem for days, weeks, months or years but nobody hears us. The cure for this means listening to ourselves.
- We know that something’s wrong but we aren’t sure what it is (because we’re not listening to ourselves). When we mention the problem to the Drainer(s) — the people or institutions in the first symptom above — they look at us askance and reassure us that nothing is wrong except us – who we are, how we feel and what we think is going on just isn’t occurring, they insist. Remember the story from the first Language of Letting Go, about the scene in a movie where a wife catches her husband in his pickup truck? He’s parked at the drive-in movie theatre all cuddled up and kissing with another woman. When the wife confronts him about having this affair, he denies it vehemently while the other woman sits there kissing his neck, arm, hand and more. “What are you going to believe?” the infidel asks his wife. “Me or what you think you see?” Crazy as that sounds, it can easily describe us when we’re in codependent mode.
- We feel tired, unfocused and somewhat like a Boxer looks (the dog, not Mohammed Ali) when it’s chasing not a tail, but the remnants of one before the vet clipped or docked it. We’re caught up in trying to do the impossible. It’s time to assess what we can and can’t change and then put energy into assessing and solving the right problem – the real issue that’s going on.
- We feel increasingly angry at the people, places or things in our personalized list in the first symptom above, but as soon as we feel anger we also start to feel guilt. The guilt’s not real. It’s the codependent guilt that’s followed us around for most of our life. The guilt yammers about how there must be something wrong with us because the other person wouldn’t do that — whatever that is. We wonder what’s wrong with us for feeling this angry and then decide that the problem is us. ZZZZZT. Wrong answer. Solution? Look in the mirror and tell ourselves that who we are is okay.
- Of all the signals that someone’s manipulating or lying to us, feeling cruddy and confused after our interactions with this person or institution — if they’ll stand still long enough to talk to us — ranks highest and indicates that it’s time to open our eyes, shake off the denial dust and start a self-care revival.
We may walk around confused for a while, but when the school bell rings the lessons will become more painfully clear every day. We can’t run and we can’t hide. Well, we can but the lessons will be there when we’re out of breath from running or we crawl out from under the bed. They’re waiting for us like a school marm with her pointer pointed at us.
“See! See! See!” she says.
“See what?” we ask.
Whatever’s going on that hurts.
It’s not our fault when other people lie, cheat, steal, use us or shoot us through the proverbial grease. Bad behavior breaks pandemic. It used to be one out of 12 people couldn’t be trusted. Now in any group of ten, we’re lucky to find one trustworthy and reliable soul. But not allowing ourselves to be victimized any more after we see what’s going on?
That responsibility belongs to us.
A few hours before writing this blog, a reader/ friend asked redundantly and semi-subtly the same question I’ve heard for years: “What are the rules I can follow to make sure this doesn’t happen again?”
Some people offer an established platform for you to follow. I don’t except for these three rules: don’t hurt anyone else (physically), don’t hurt yourself and don’t allow anyone to hurt you. Besides safety, a list of rules for self-care would be an oxymoron. It would mean giving up our power to think to someone else. Paraphrasing a quote I heard somewhere, “I go to church and do what my minister says so I don’t have to decide or think about what my morals should be.”
Self-care doesn’t mean doing what someone else tells us to do unless we’ve consulted a professional, such as a doctor and we’re following a protocol. Even then, we need to be certain we trust and feel good about what someone else is telling us to do. One of the most important behaviors we learn about self-care means we don’t give control of our will and life to anyone except our Higher Power, and we get to decide who and what that Higher Power is.
We learn to listen to and trust ourselves.
Who’s doing what to us that we don’t like? Who’s proposing an agenda that doesn’t set right in our gut? What institution or person ignores us when we ask for what we rightfully have coming?
When the soul-sucking, energy-draining sycophants or abusers come around draining us, shake the dust out of our head, remove our rose-colored glasses, stop making excuses for them and let go of any outdated decisions about people, places or things. Because we could trust someone ten years ago doesn’t mean we can trust them today. People, places and things change. Instead we ask ourselves how that person or institution treats us now and how it feels to be around them.
While staying or leaving isn’t the solution, running from trouble or going around it can sometimes be the most loving thing we can do. That includes not engaging in relationships that rob our energy and leave us feeling drained, empty, used and confused.
We can set that boundary, say no or tell that person, place or thing whatever we want to say.
Getting rid of the drainers may challenge us at first. It’s similar to removing a tic from that Boxer. We have to pry it (the Drainer) loose. The tic may try to dig in deeper but c’mon. We’re smarter than that tic.
Instead of us feeling drained, flush it down the drain. Stretch. Breathe. We’ve got the keys to let ourselves out of the prison that believing lies creates. Shake off that case of the codependent crazies. It’s not us; it’s them.
When we feel cluttered, confused or crazy — remove the drain pain from our life.
From the desk of Melody Beattie
September 17, 2012
This makes the second time I’ve written about distractions, and how they can play a positive role when we’re grieving or going through any challenging situation.
Since I wrote the first blog, I’ve learned more about the subject.
Are you a creative-type? Going through grief or loss? In constant physical pain or dealing with a chronic illness? Distracting yourself intentionally may be exactly what the doctor ordered. (That’s a figure of speech. Please seek professional help if you need it.)
After my son died, I endured extended periods of overwhelming emotional pain, distress so profound I felt like I’d fallen into a black hole of grief.
Those periods of pain paralyzed me.
Although I felt overwhelmed and helpless, I learned eventually I could do something to help myself – often something as simple as taking a shower, going into another room or working on a crossword puzzle.
I saw that I could have a degree of mastery over my emotions without reverting to denial.
My interest in crossword puzzles became intense. Although I didn’t understand it then, by doing puzzles I learned to flip a switch and get me out of my emotions and into the logical side of my brain.
During the years I’ve been taking as many screenwriting courses as possible, I had the privilege of studying under an excellent teacher, Corey Mandell. But instead of focusing on writing, he stressed the importance of identifying which side of our brain we normally function from and then strengthening the weaker side. Those who did this, he taught, had a better chance of success in their writing endeavors.
He talked about the left brain/ right brain syndrome, where one side deals with emotions and intuition and the other with conceptual, logical thought – you know, the side that even enjoys doing math.
Paraphrasing Mandel, he said most people continue functioning from their favored side of the brain while ignoring the other side of the brain and allowing it to constantly get weaker.
Some people take the stance we should live solely from intuition. But balancing intuition with intellect makes more sense as a pathway to wisdom.
For years I understood that I can’t write a first draft or create and simultaneously edit my work. I do one, and then later do the other, but it’s impossible to do both at the same time. The activities are mutually exclusive, because each uses a separate, mutually exclusive side of the brain.
We have the conceptual and the intuitive, the rational and the emotional, the logical and the part that feels like we’ve been sucked into an endless black hole of emotions without a door that says “This Way Out.”
An exit exists, one that allows us to forget momentarily our pain – a road we can carve into the other side of the brain.
A few weeks before writing this, a woman wrote to tell me that after searching the web, she appreciated finding my blog that discussed the positive side of distractions.
She had worked with a doctor until a chronic illness – and the pain that accompanies it – sent her home. The doctor suggested they write a book together about the importance of diversions and distractions.
While the doctor meant distraction from physical pain, it doesn’t matter which kind we need some distance from. Diversions and distractions work as long as we don’t use them as a path to full-time denial.
Don’t overlook the importance of playing games.
That’s why a team of us created a new section in the websites: Distractions and Diversions. Right now it consists of Word Seek puzzles but don’t let the simplicity of most Word Seeks deceive you. These may not be as easy as the ones you’re used to completing in three minutes.
My sister-in-law Pam Lee, created the puzzles basing them on my books. She would read a book and then spent hours creating a Word Seek game that used words from the book. The letters leftover at the end, when you’ve circled all the words on the list, create a mystery sentence that sums up the book.
The games will educate about recovery and help ease the pain, even if it’s similar to the relief we get from a Band-Aid. But those moments of not hurting can be worth a million dollars to someone who’s floundered in grief for years after losing a child.
This Diversions and Distractions section is located at the Grief Club site at www.MelodyBeattie.net. Follow the link to the Home Page, and then scroll down the menu on the left side of the page until you find the games.
If you can’t have fun, maybe for a few minutes you can forget how much you hurt.
Word Seek games aren’t the only way to switch sides of the brain. Sudoku, Crossword Puzzles, Logic Games – even Scrabble or any of the new e-variations of it will get the job done. The more challenging the game, the greater the chances that the activity will help strengthen the other side of the brain, the one where you don’t normally live.
If you’re someone who finds Sudoku, Word Seek or any logic game easy, than you may not be an emotional side brain dweller. In that situation you may need help getting in touch with how you feel instead of distracting yourself from your emotions. Watching tear-jerker movies may help you find and flip the brain switch, strengthen the weaker side.
Take the time to carve a pathway to the other side of your brain. Let yourself feel uncomfortable. It can do more than give you a respite from grief. It can assist you in becoming more successful with your creative ventures and help you find a stronger, more balanced power.
What Popeye the Sailorman said, “I yam what I yam,” isn’t true — unless we believe it is. We don’t need to stay at whatever level we’re at. We can change and grow.
Even this old dog learns an occasional new trick. While life isn’t all fun and games, some of it is.
End of a relationship. Moving. Losing our job or home. Stopping addiction to drugs and alcohol and learning to live clean and sober. Discovering we’re codependent and redefining ourselves and our relationships — including our relationship with ourselves.
From being diagnosed with a serious illness to experiencing empty nest syndrome, we wake up one day and before we go to bed that night, our lives change. Irrevocably. They’ll never be the same again.
Sometimes we lose all the important parts of our life (or almost all of them) at once. A friend from years back woke up one morning. That day he discovered that his wife of 15 years had been cheating on him from the first day of their marriage, that neither the son nor daughter he thought belonged to him were his, and his accountant informed him that his business had gone bankrupt.
Some people call it reorganization. Others, a new beginning. Most of the time I hear it described this way: “Sigh. I’m starting over. Again.”
I hate new beginnings, at least at first. It feels like too much, more than I can handle. I feel weary from all the start-overs I’ve already experienced. I don’t want to do it one more time.
When we start over, we’re walking in the dark, living in the mystery without a clue about what’s next. Sometimes we may feel like we’re dying, and harbor a sense o imminent doom. That’s because the change or transformation is so profound that the experience resembles a death.
If loss of a loved one triggers the starting over, it may feel like our heart has been broken but if we tell people that, they may look at us like we’re overplaying the drama queen hand. Not true.
Recently the Mayo Clinic identified “Broken Heart Syndrome” as a legitimate physical malady. Broken Heart Syndrome can be caused by the loss of a loved one or stress overload and it’s more than something that’s just in our head. The Syndrome presents, according to information from Mayo Clinic, with symptoms similar to those of an actual heart attack and may include: heart pain that worsens with each beat of the heart; difficulty breathing or shortness of breath; and nausea or vomiting.
I went out to do errands. Around lunch-time, I decided to find someplace to eat. I had driven out of my usual neighborhoods and didn’t recognize the mall I pulled into, at least not at first. Then I saw it – the restaurant where we celebrated my son, Shane’s last birthday – the one two days before the date of his death.
The pain hit hard and fast – right in my chest. I felt paralyzed. My hands gripped the steering wheel. I couldn’t move them to rummage around in my purse and find my cell phone. Movement of any kind hurt too much. I couldn’t even roll down my window and yell, “Help.” I’d rate the pain as a ten on the pain scale from one to ten.
For just over one hour I sat in the same position, leaning forward, clutching the steering wheel, stopped in my tracks by this pain in my heart. Then slowly the debilitating pain began to subside. I didn’t get out of the car; I went home instead. A week later I went to my doctor. (This was before the identification of Broken Heart Syndrome as an actual physical illness.) The doctors made me stay overnight.
“It’s the strangest thing,” the doctors said. “For all purposes, it looks like you had a myocardial infarction (heart attack). But then, it also doesn’t appear as though you actually suffered from a heart attack. It left the doctors scratching their heads but I’d known from the minute – the second – the nurse at the Emergency Room asked me if I had someone I could call after Shane’s accident that his death had broken my heart.
Don’t rely on self-diagnosis. If your heart hurts, get a checkup. During times of transition or grief, we’re more vulnerable to any kind of illness. See your doctor if you suspect any problems.
For a while we’ll feel like Someone pulled the rug out from under us and we’re in the air – upside down. Disorientation has a positive side. It leaves us open to new ideas, new people and new ways of living.
When we stabilize, which we will, we’ll get on with the business of Starting Over Again (SOA). One idea that may be helpful: although it feels like you’re starting over again, you’re not really starting over. Life is a continuum. You’re either jolted or sliding into the next experience. You’re moving on.
Here are a few tips for those of you in that uncomfortable place of SOA when you thought the last time you started over would be the last.
- Let yourself grieve your losses. You don’t need to be so stoic. Give yourself room to be human. What you’re going through may be extremely difficult and it may hurt. But you will get through it.
- Remind yourself that what you’re going through won’t last forever. If you have to leave post-it notes around the house, then do it. Remember other times you had to reorganize after a loss. Recall the behaviors that helped you get through it. Draw from what you learned, including the knowledge that you did survive that devastating time.
- Give yourself time to cocoon. You’re not isolating. You’re resting, giving your body a chance to adapt to the change.
- Tell your story often. Tell it to people who will listen and care. While some people may accuse us of obsessiveness, telling our story repeatedly is part of how we incorporate the unthinkable into our life story.
- Set goals. In the beginning, start by writing a list of what you want or need to accomplish just that day. Take life in small chunks. After some time passes, begin writing goal lists that go further into the future. For now, while you’re in shock, a list for today is enough.
- Be kind to yourself. There may be days when all you accomplish is getting out of bed and taking a shower. Instead of focusing on how little you did, tell yourself you did great – because you did.
- Slowly, as new people and interests come into your life, be willing to say “yes” to opportunities. Often a person or an interest that I think is just a “time killer” slowly becomes a major part of the next part of my life.
- If you need to cry or get angry, cry or get angry. You may even be furious with your Higher Power. That’s okay. You’ll work it out later.
- Know there is no one right way to start over. We have tools, not rules. Now is the time to dig into your toolbox and use what you’ve learned: living in the present moment; prayer; meditation; exercise (when your body can handle it); detachment (which involves feeling all your emotions); and sometimes Acting As If. Know that if the emotions become too intense, you can shut them down for a while without going into denial. Something as simple as taking a shower, going into another room, or going to the grocery store can help you stop falling deeper into what feels like a bottomless pit of pain.
- Beginnings are delicate, sacred events. Even when you’re in pain, take time to acknowledge that this is a new beginning. You’ll likely find yourself trying to recreate your old life from time to time. That’s okay. It’s part of the process of letting go but we can still honor the sacredness of this time. Later we’ll see how holy this junction really was.
Although I wrote earlier that there aren’t any rules, there are three hard and fast ones that have no exceptions: 1) don’t let anyone hurt you; 2) don’t hurt anyone else; and 3) don’t hurt yourself. Even if you’re someone who never tolerated abuse, you may feel that God is punishing you (not true) so you can be more prone to allowing someone to abuse you.
You will get through this, although maybe not as quickly as you want. One morning you’ll wake up and find yourself living in the next part of your life, a part that feels as comfortable and normal as your old life (in most situations). Instead of opening your eyes and feeling a blast of pain, you’ll be at peace. Your new life will be there — fully formed. You’ll be living it even if you’re still dealing with remnants of your grief.
Congratulations. You did it. You started over again, whether you wanted to or not. Now the next time you need to start over, you’ll know what to do.
From the Desk of Melody Beattie
Original article on Broken Heart System available at http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/broken-heart-syndrome/DS01135
The question posed by this Blog’s title doesn’t mean, How much mistreatment can you take before doubling over in pain and then exploding in a crazed rage while the Other Person says, “See how crazy you are! No wonder I do __________.”
Fill in the blank with over-drink, use drugs, cheat; lie; refuse to commit; over-work; stay away from home or whatever the Other Person does that hurts us so much.
Many of us long to be nurtured, held, shown we’re cared for and about. We’re genuinely confused about why that doesn’t happen. Your answer to the question asked by this blog’s title also answers the question: Why don’t other people do for me, after all I do for them?
Having a moderate to high Receivability Quotient (referred to as RQ in the rest of this blog) can create a major change in your life. Even if you haven’t heard of RQ until now, RQ has heard about you. It’s affected us all along and will continue to do so.
Some people say we can’t out-give God. That may be true for most, but not for the avid codependent. Our RQ is what people cannot out-give, no matter how hard they try. Their gifts won’t work; their love won’t stick.
We say we want the Other Person to give us more. We complain to our friends about how much we do for her or him, and how little that person does for us, that selfish son-of-an-overindulgent potential mother-in-law.
Our RQ doesn’t affect only romantic relationships. It directly dictates how much we receive from Life, our Higher Power (or God as we understand or fail to understand Him), people we do business with, our Boss, customers, and the list goes on. All our relationship fall prey to our RQ. It dictates what we will or won’t accept with open arms.
We don’t want to make it our goal to only receive. It’s important to maintain a healthy balance between giving and getting, and to have healthy boundaries about what we receive, how much, and from whom. But for most of us, the scales don’t come close to balancing.
How many of you have been taught that it’s better to give than to receive? Show of hands, please. Do you believe that? I do. Unquestionably, blessings pour down on those who give in a healthy, non-codependent and non-manipulative way.
So if we believe that giving is a good thing, then why do we dig in our heels and refuse to let those around us become blessed by giving to us? Why do we deny people we say we love that pleasure by denying their gifts?
I learned much about healthy giving taking care of my Mom when Alzheimer’s disease destroyed her once razor-sharp mind. But when I first tried to help by telling my mother what she was going to do, who was going to help her, where and when, my attitude triggered an uncontrollable rage in her.
“Get the hell out of my life. I don’t want anything from you,” she screamed.
A year later when I returned, I treated her with respect by asking her what she wanted, and from whom. Things transpire differently. I made a conscious decision that before my mom died, she would experience what it felt like to be unconditionally loved. By me.
I achieved my goal.
At her funeral, people said that my mother looked more beautiful and at peace than she ever had.
“No,” I said. “She looks dead.”
But what people said was true. My mother and I had battled all my life, each of us wanting the other to take care of and love us. Neither of us would give in.
This war ended when I decided to love her. I understand that in a perfect world the mother should love and take care of the child, and not the other way around. But we’re talking the eleventh hour. No time to undo a lifetime of behaviors so sick that our family became the poster-family for dysfunctional systems.
My relationship with my mother would never be what it should be. But in those remaining years of my mother’s life when I accepted and loved her as she was instead of constantly reminding myself about all I didn’t get from her, my mom:
Nurtured me for the first time in a way that truly touched my heart;
Told me how much she loved me so cleanly it didn’t make me throw up;
Cried at my pain over me losing my son instead of trying to outdo me by saying how much more she hurt than I did;
Told me how proud of me she felt instead of pointing out my every past mistake;
Forgave me for hurting her as a result of my addiction when I was a young adult and child;
Did more than superficially forgive me and instead she forgot the pain I caused her – well maybe the Alzheimer’s had something to do with that;
Hugged me with such love it no longer felt like a porcupine had me trapped in its grip;
Laughed, giggled and enjoyed life;
Trusted and respected me.
For the first time, my mother loved me the way I wanted her to. It felt good.
I didn’t expect anything from her. I focused only on my goal – to give and show love to her. She had desperately sought love all her life and we know how well desperation works when it comes to love.
She had married eight, nine or ten different men. By now, we’d all lost track (including her) of how many husbands she had. What she didn’t lose track of, even in her dementia, was that she hadn’t found or received the love she desired and that unmet need and her refusal to receive (a no-win situation) still guided and motivated what she did.
By age 90 – well actually many decades before that — her unfulfilled desire etched itself so deeply into the furrowed lines on her forehead, the deep wrinkles around her eyes, and the downward turn of her lips, that I thought the pain had become a permanent part of her face.
Love changed even that. Her receiving my love became a great anti-aging protocol, more effective than anything money could buy. Alzheimer’s disease had rendered Mom so vulnerable she finally let love in.
As an unexpected perk, what I gave to my mother swung around like a boomerang and blessed me.
So if it’s more blessed to give than to receive, why do we deny others the blessings they could receive if we let them give to us? Not a redundant question, it merits a thoughtful answer. Why don’t we let people give to us?
“No, I couldn’t.”
“Nuh uh. No. Can’t accept that.”
“I can do it myself.”
“I will take care of myself.”
“Don’t need any help, but thanks for offering.”
Some of us don’t even use the gift cards other people give us. We let them expire.
Our RQ register reads zero. The reading won’t change until we consciously decide to allow ourselves – to trust ourselves – to receive.
Here’s an example of how powerful that decision can be and how quickly it can create change. Soon after I went through treatment for chemical dependency but not soon enough, I tired of the bus being my only means of transportation.
Traveling by bus wasn’t a green thing; it felt like a mean thing. My arms ached from carrying those brown paper sacks of groceries from the store to the bus, and then from the bus to my little apartment-home. I hated it when I couldn’t find an available seat on the bus, and I had to stand, juggling my bags of groceries.
Before chemical dependency treatment, I abused the State-given privilege to drive. I assumed I’d not be allowed to drive again and accepted that as my self-created fate, Just Desserts for my reckless anti-social driving.
I believed I didn’t deserve to drive again. In the evenings, after attending my recovery meetings, I wouldn’t even allow myself to accept a ride home. When people from the meetings offered to drive me home, I always said “No, thanks.
One day I completely, utterly tired of riding the bus. I looked up at the sky (when I’m outside and talk to God, I always look at the sky, as if God dwells inside a cloud). “God please, could I get a driver’s license and a car?” I said, making a statement as much as asking a question.
Within six weeks, I had a car and a driver’s license (a valid one). But first I had to elevate my RQ and demonstrate that by asking for what I wanted.
That began the journey of understanding my RQ and learning the importance of written goals. If we aren’t conscious of what we want and if we don’t believe we deserve whatever we want enough to write about it, we probably won’t recognize the gift and accept it when it comes. An opportunity will arise, and we’ll refuse, reject, or not even notice it.
By writing our goals, we’ve upped our RQ and increased the possibility of getting what we want.
Other factors make goals crucial, but that’s another blog for another time. Regarding RQ, by writing goals, we do the prep work to receive and accept what we want, when it comes. Goals aren’t to be used to interfere with another’s free will; they’re one way we manifest our own.
So often, I’m asked to define codependency. As I’ve written before, it’s nearly impossible because codependency consists of behaviors nearly everyone does occasionally. These behaviors can be healthy or an expression of dysfunction.
Two people can do exactly the same behavior and for one, it’s a healthy choice and another, a codependent, compulsively-driven act.
Some people don’t get to the place in codependency recovery where they feel safe enough to give to people again. When I took take of my mother when she had Alzheimer’s, I wasn’t engaging in codependent caretaking. I did for her what she could not do for herself.
I didn’t take care of her out of guilt. I wanted to love her and care for her.
Many of us may have only experienced guilt-motivated giving done out of obligation. Sacrificing for and giving to another person, when done from clean and pure motives, can forge a deep bond of love between the caregiver and the person receiving care.
It’s similar to pregnancy. We bring our baby home from the hospital. Then we realize it will be 12 to 24 years before we ever get a good night’s sleep again. Even when a child reaches his or her majority, they like to call Mom or Dad at 1:30 a.m. to discuss things.
When our children are small, they depend on us for every need. A parent gives and gives and gives to a child. It’s healthy, as long as healthy boundaries temper the giving and we eventually learn to say “No” to a child.
If we’re lucky, at some point we have an epiphany. We see that by legitimately sacrificing — and caregiving an infant exemplifies healthy caretaking because a baby can’t change its diaper until it’s four years old – and by doing for and giving to our child, we may be exhausted but we’ve grown to love this child deeply.
Unhealthy caregiving breeds resentments and leaves us drained. Healthy giving blesses us. We may be tired, but we experience love at its finest.
It’s more blessed to give than to receive and clean, healthy giving creates good love.
If you’re shopping for a special person or spouse, if you’re in a flagging relationship, or you’re in one where the other person wants to run (but can’t because we’ve handcuffed him or her to the television stand), maybe the problem isn’t that we haven’t given him or her enough.
Maybe it’s that we’ve given too much and haven’t let him or her give to us. We haven’t learned how to let our special person give to us and create that deep bond of love.
See, guys and gals, being unlovable does not accurately describe our problem. We’re loveable. You’re loveable. So are you. And you. And even you, with all your quirky ways. Not allowing people to give to us, not ceasing our endless giving and caretaking, not taking our RQ from zero to at least a two and preferably a five or six describes the problem and defines the solution
Wherever you are, no matter your situation, it’s time to evaluate your RQ and consciously learn to say, “Yes, thank you. I’ll accept that ___________.” Fill in the blank with: compliment, ride, gift, dinner or help when we’re ill.
For years we’ve heard that we don’t recover from codependency by changing exterior situations. We can leave. We can stay. We can vacillate. Doesn’t matter. Until we make changes inside of ourselves, things stay the same.
Recovery is an inside job.
We can take care of ourselves. We no longer have to protect ourselves by taking care of everyone around us. It’s safe to receive. We’re free to give to others because now we know what we want to do and give, and what we don’t.
We say what we mean. We’re what some people call authentic. It’s what author Margery Williams Bianco meant in her book The Velveteen Rabbit when she wrote about becoming real.
We are who we are. When it comes to changes, Life will guide us as to what needs to be changed and when. We don’t change by thinking or reading about it. We change by immersing ourselves in the experiences of our lives.
It’s time to lift our Receivability Quotient until it soars. It’s time to accept what we want. It’s time to learn to fly.
Take the first step to raising your RQ by watching yourself – observing – and becoming aware of how you refuse or reject the gifts life offers you. Do you allow people in your life to take and take, without giving to you? Are you drained and exhausted – and not in a good way?
Do you resent the giving you do, or do you feel blessed by it?
Become aware of what you really want.
Let the lesson of RQ integrate, move down from our minds as intellectual knowledge, and then transform our behaviors. We’ll get only that which we allow ourselves to receive, and not one one-hundredth of a millimeter more.
Stop with the “I couldn’t,” “You shouldn’t,” and the “I can’t.” Just … say… yes. Give the people around you the opportunity to be blessed by giving to you.
From the desk of: