Tag Archives: growth

Eff you, I won’t do what you tell me!

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judgeandjury

When I was 9, my favorite cousin got a small part in the movie “Annie” and I was beyond thrilled.  We grew up together, had lived together when I was younger, and I worshiped her.  On top of that, she was coming out to visit from California around the same time the movie would be released in theaters.  So I got the soundtrack on cassette tape and for the next few months could not be seen without my handy Walk-man glued to my head.  I sang those songs everywhere I went and knew every word by heart (still do!).  My 9 year old heart was filled with love, joy, and “The sun’ll come out tomorrow!”  No, I did not know at 9 that maybe my singing out loud sounded awesome with my background music, but that no one else could hear it.  All they heard was a 9 year old singing at the top of her lungs.  Sadly, the reviews were quick and harsh.  “Your sister is weird.  She is always singing to herself.”  “You need to stop singing all the time, people think you’re strange.” It didn’t take long before I would barely sing above a whisper in the car with my own family.  For the record, I was not tone deaf and I didn’t totally suck at singing.  I once got a standing ovation from one of the cutest older guys in high school when I sang at an assembly.  He was forever one of my favorite people after that (from afar), but that is not my point.

Children do not judge themselves harshly until they are taught to do so.  Living in a small town, with a family full of boys and small town thoughts taught me those lessons early on.  My uncles never missed a chance to pick at me, whether it was for poking out my lip and pouting or having the audacity to be knock-kneed and a tad chubby as a child.  My grandfather meant the world to me, but he was a man who related to others by teasing and joking.  Apparently I was just too sensitive, because I frequently took the teasing to heart.  Perhaps they did not know that with every joke, with every teasing word, I was taking mental notes about myself.  There was no “love yourself, be yourself” movement in small town South Carolina in the late 1970’s.  Just “fit in or stick out”, knowing that sticking out was the last thing you wanted to do.

I remember playing with the girl across the street one day.  We decided the ditches on either side of our street were amazing places to hide and pretend to shoot the cars that came down the road with our sticks we imagined to be guns.  We had a blast!  The next day my brother came home from school and told me that a classmate told him they saw me “writhing around on the ground when they rode by, as if something was wrong with me.”  What does a child learn when it feels that every person around her is judging her?  She learns to judge herself.  Harshly.  Bitterly.  She learns that who she is, and what she does, will never be good enough.  People don’t seem to realize that the one comment they make may just be the latest piece of criticism, tossed on the top of the pile of all the other criticism a person receives.

In my teens, I adopted the bravado of “I don’t care if you like me or not”…all the while constantly judging myself while daring others to do so.  My best friend thought I kicked ass and was fearless.  Some found me unapproachable.  Inside, I was still that little girl feeling like no one would ever truly know me or love me for exactly who I really was.  In stereotypical fashion, I looked for that approval and love in all the wrong places, and eventually exited my high school years and that small town completely broken and lost.  What does one do when you believe that who you are is not good enough and just wrong?  Well, you decide that you don’t want to be yourself anymore.

So began the long process of losing myself.  Things I enjoyed and loved about myself before the age of 18: I wrote poetry, I loved theater, I enjoyed singing.  Ok, scratch that mess. My goal when I left home and started over was to be “normal”.  Yes, I know how messed up that sounds now.  I know that “normal” is not some yardstick to be measured by.  But this is how I learned to hide who I really was from other people, try to fit in, do the things that everyone else did even if I found them inane and just plain ridiculous.  I met a boy.  The first night we went out, we stayed out all night long in his car talking.  He was fascinated with me, and he was “normal”.  I was thrilled!  We started dating, and we did normal things.  His family was wonderfully normal and warm. Of course, I sized them up quickly and presented them with a version of myself that they would find acceptable.  Over the years, I didn’t seem to notice that every time I inched out of that box I put myself in, he showed his displeasure with me.  By the time it ended suddenly and unexpectedly, I had wrapped myself up in his version of life and given myself a whole new set of rules to judge myself by.  The end result was a 21 year old me who barely breathed without him approving it, moved to a new college due to him, and was again left feeling that no matter how hard I tried I was never going to be enough.

I could go on for another 15 years, but I think I’ve laid it out enough. If anyone had any question, this is a blueprint for an eventual breakdown, addiction, and hitting a spiritual bottom before realizing that the problem really was never me.  Even realizing this doesn’t fix it.  It is a daily struggle against those inner voices.  You can’t re-train almost 40 years of learning to judge yourself overnight by just realizing that it was wrong.  It is a constant effort to transition from where I am to where I’d like to be. I can’t go back and fix that little girl.  The only thing I can do now is move forward, and discover who it is I really am.  And those inner voices?  Well, sometimes you just have to tell them to suck it!!

 

I am just one person.

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Today was a pretty rough day in my house.  Our 3-year-old cat died from a sudden and rapid kidney failure.  We realized last night she may not make it through the night.  Sadly, my daughter was tired from an outing last night when we came home and fell asleep before we realized there would be no chance for her to say goodbye.  This cat was special to the two of us.  She was found abandoned before her eyes even opened, and together we bottle-fed her and nursed her into a healthy, albeit very devilish little kitty.

babymaddiedevil kitty

So, when my daughter woke up today, Maddie was already gone.  I watched my 12-year-old sit on the floor with her pet and stroke her soft  fur.  She quickly made her a necklace of bright-colored string and tied it around her little neck.  She lovingly touched her with tears flowing the entire time.  She said her goodbye in her own way, and it was heart wrenching to watch as a parent.

When I logged on to Facebook, still feeling pretty sad, this was the message that awaited me from a friend: “Just so you know: you are one of the nicest people I know, and you have made my life better just by being in it.”  This friend had no idea what had been going on in my house, in fact I hadn’t talked to him in the past few days. It was just random.  One of his friends had posted the status “Just in case you need to hear it today: go out of your way to make someone’s day. Give them a simple compliment and watch their day turnaround.” and he decided to do just that.

This reminded me of a meditation from last week.

Just for Today – October 13

“Words cannot describe the sense of spiritual awareness that we receive when we have given something, no matter how small, to another person.”

Basic Text p. 100

Sometimes it seems as though there is so much wrong with the world that we might as well forget trying to make a difference. “After all,” we think, “what in the world can I do? I’m just one person.” Whether our concerns are so broad that we desire global peace or so personal that we simply want recovery made available to every addict who wants it, the task seems overwhelming. “So much work to do, so little time,” we sigh, sometimes wondering how we’ll ever do any good.

Amazingly enough, the smallest contributions can make the biggest difference. To gain more from life than an ordinary, plodding existence requires very little effort on our parts. We ourselves are transformed by the deep satisfaction we experience when we lift the spirits of just one person. When we smile at someone who is frowning, when we let someone in front of us on the freeway, when we call a newcomer just to say we care, we enter the realm of the extraordinary.

Want to change the world? Start with the addict sitting next to you tonight, and then imagine your act of kindness multiplied. One person at a time, each one of us makes a difference.

Just for today: An act of kindness costs me nothing, but is priceless to the recipient. I will be kind to someone today.

When I read this meditation last week, I thought about all the friends I have who are making such a difference right now.  I have some pretty amazing friends in my life right now who are fighting to make this world a better place.

Sometimes it DOES seem like we’re banging our heads against the wall.  Other days, like the one in this video, are just amazing.  Sometimes when I think about the incredible friends I have and the things they are accomplishing, I think that they must have something I do not.  I think they are making a difference and I wonder if I am capable of that.  This meditation reminds me that making a difference doesn’t have to be global.  Sometimes you just need to be that one person who makes a difference to one other person. 

Today, my friend was that person.  “Just so you know: you are one of the nicest people I know, and you have made my life better just by being in it.”

Thank you.  I needed that today.

 

The Days I Can’t Stand Other People

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Yesterday I woke up mad at the world.  Yes, I have those days. Most people do not see those days, because we’ve been taught to put on our “public face” and respond to questions like “How are you today?” with answers such as “I’m good, how are you?”  Some days you really feel more like, “I feel absolutely horrible, and can’t figure out why!!”  Yesterday was definitely more of the latter. The problem with having a tendency toward obsessive thoughts is that the longer you sit alone with those thoughts, the stronger they grow.  That public face starts to chip away, usually with those who know you best. Before you can get it under control, suddenly everyone you know is annoying you in some way.

So I woke up yesterday, still tired.  Sleep and I are still not BFFs, no matter how much time I try to spend with it.  Not the best start to a day, when you really just want to go back to bed.  Then I discovered that I was nurturing the beginning of resentment toward a friend from the night before.  So, I did what any good, flawed person CAN do… I watered it and fed it just a tiny bit.  Next thing I know, that friend is sending me a message, “What the hell did I DO to you in the past 12 hours??”  I am apparently NOT the Queen of Subtlety I would like to think I am.  My friend is also not the Patron Saint of Reason when confronted.  Here we sat, with our defects on the road between us like road blocks.

The difficulty with this kind of situation is the tendency to look at the road between you and another person, see the road blocks you’ve both thrown up, and throw up your hands in defeat.  The road blocks seem insurmountable when you look at them that way.  The only way two people can get through it unscathed is to look to that first thing on the road and determine what you can do about it.  The issue closest to you on the road tends to be your own, but it is all too easy to look down the road at the other person’s issue and place the blame there.  Because blaming yourself is just not fun.

Then I came across yesterday’s meditation in Just For Today:

September 26
Seeing ourselves in others
“It will not make us better people to judge the faults of another.”
Basic Text, p. 38
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How easy it is to point out the faults of others! There’s a reason for this: The defects we identify most easily in others are often the defects we are most familiar with in our own characters. We may notice our best friend’s tendency to spend too much money, but if we examine our own spending habits we’ll probably find the same compulsiveness. We may decide our sponsor is much too involved in service, but find that we haven’t spent a single weekend with our families in the past three months because of one service commitment or another.
What we dislike in our fellows are often those things we dislike most in ourselves. We can turn this observation to our spiritual advantage. When we are stricken with the impulse to judge someone else, we can redirect the impulse in such a way as to recognize our own defects more clearly. What we see will guide our actions toward recovery and help us become emotionally healthy and happy individuals.
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Just for today: I will look beyond the character defects of others and recognize my own.

This is how the miracle of recovery works sometimes. You see exactly what you need to see, when you need to see it.  As friends, we both made the choice to let our walls down a bit and walked away unscathed, stronger even.  We both recognized our part in the misunderstanding and agreed that we all have our issues, we just learn and grow… This may seem like no big deal to some. But when you’ve spent your life learning disordered ways of communicating and thinking, being able to step back, breathe, and find a good way through those thoughts is HUGE!

Today I am grateful to have friends who help me learn and grow.

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Related articles

http://recoverytable.blogspot.com/2011/06/character-defects-seven-deadly-sins.html

http://personalityspirituality.net/articles/the-michael-teachings/chief-features/

http://jftna.org/jft/