I am creating these pages to establish a new morning routine, by commenting on text from "Courage to Change" readings.
I will first write the text, verbatim, then make brief commentary. This is for myself as a daily discipline, though I am hoping someone else may get something out of either the CTC text or my interpretation. I am cultivating this habit to replace reading the paper, and it takes up the same amount of time.
Courage to Change is one a few books created by the 12-Step community to provide a source of daily reinforcement for the 12-Step Principles - it can be used for any 12-Step program from AA to Al-Anon to Gamblers Anonymous, etc but was originally created for Al-Anon members. The readings help keep focus on myself and not on others. I am practicing interpreting the readings because I notice I feel better all day when I have a positive, thoughtful morning routine. I used to read the newspaper (AZ Daily Star) but I got fed up with the poor quality of writing, and the general negativity. So I switched to the New York Times, where the writing was terrific w/ the occasional brilliant Op-Ed, but I still find the paper depressing and overwhelming in the early morning. I have enough negativity at work to deal with, what with reading hundreds of pages of medical records a day!
January 24th CTC
I will dare to be myself. I may be tempted to paste a smile on my face even though I am angry, in order to please another person. When turning down an invitation, I may want to make excuses so that nobody will be hurt. I may be inclined to cancel plans that I care about, without protest, because a loved on prefers to stay home and I don't want to make waves. These may be perfectly acceptable choices, and I may opt for all of them. But today I will be honest with myself as I do so--I will not pretend to feel what I do not feel or to want what I do not want.
Al-Anon does not tell me how to behave. It does not legislate right or wrong choices. But Al-Anon does encourage me to look searchingly and fearlessly at myself, my feelings, motives, and actions. I can only learn to love myself if I am willing to learn who I am.
Today's Reminder: I have a right to want what I want and to feel the way I feel. I may not choose to act on those feelings or desires, but I will not hide them from myself. They are a part of me.
"This above all: to thine own self be true" -Wm Shakespeare
I have a little trouble with this not because I hide my feelings from myself, but more because I become self-critical for being so, uh, self-critical. Since I have a lot of low moods, I am often engaging in blaming myself about feeling bad as in "I shouldn't feel bad" or "what's wrong with me?" This does not help me feel any better, only worse. My underlying belief system seems to be, "if I were better, I'd feel better, like I'm supposed to."
Accepting myself as someone with depressive tendencies is difficult. But the alternative - not accepting myself - is much worse. So I tell myself, "you are who you are" and "you will not always feel the way you feel right now" or some variation on "this too shall pass." As for telling other people no, or pretending to feel what I don't feel, this is generally not a problem. I definitely accept my feelings as mine, but have more difficulty hiding them when I should. Somehow, not hiding my feelings from others helps me not hide them from myself.
This reading seems to be about self-acceptance as well as assertiveness.
Lately I've noticed that going on hikes, I want to do more climbs up mountains (nothing technical) but I am aware my hiking companion has some limitations in this area and is not going to want to do what I want. I need to be honest about this, and to what degree I'm willing to seek other options as I become more confident and improve my ability. I need to be honest with myself first, and that will remove one obstacle in being honest with him.
***Jan 26th (skipped 25, website was down for updates during the morning)
I'd read the Twelfth Step many times before I saw it. But there it was, "Having had a spiritual awakening as a result of these steps..." What a promise! If I worked these steps, I'd have a spiritual awakening! There was hope, even for me!
Now, that's not why I first came to Al-Anon. Like many, I came to help someone stop drinking. It was much later when I realized my life was missing a sense of direction only a higher power could provide..
These wonderful Twelfth Step words gave me the encouragement I needed to begin at the beginning. Slowly, sometimes painfully, I worked my way through the steps. In time, something amazing happened. I was filled with a sense of my God and his love for me. I felt whole, I knew I'd never be the same again.
Today's Reminder: The steps offer me a roadmap to living that leads to a spiritual awakening and beyond. I can skip ahead to the end of the journey -- which at times can be a hard one --but I can put one foot in front of the other and follow the directions I've been given, knowing that those who have gone before me have received more along the way than they had ever dreamed.
"The first time I ever the Twelve Steps read at a meeting, I became very still. I felt I was not breathing...I was just listening with my whole being. I knew deep within me that I was home."
While I have had something of a spiritual awakening, much of it has felt like pulling teeth. I believe in a higher power but my characterization of it is "everything and nothing" and that my being is energy connected with all other beings, my consciousness as an individual part of a larger consciousness. The term God has too many dogmatic & religious strings attached and it's difficult to even use the term without feeling alienated. The spiritual awakening that I conceived of and do conceive of is not a sudden "I see the light" for me but rather a process of understanding my limited place in a larger world, but at the same time knowing my value. Because I do not anthropormophize God, I do not conceive of a single, or named "entity" as my higher power. I get a lot more mileage out of thinking in terms of the universe as unknowable, ultimately functioning via laws I can only grasp such as those of quantum physics (or by observing phenomenon that is not well explained by our mechanistic science). I have had too many experience that are not "of this world" such as dreams that have predicted events, to believe our day-to-day conception of reality is accurate. Fortunately, I have also had a brief "spiritual awakening" that demonstrated to me directly my oneness or lack of separateness. It's difficult to describe this as an event, since time ceased to exist...but when I think back to that 'moment' I have a deep sense of calm.
I recently stopped believing in free will. I'm certain we are programmed, but part of our programming is to believe we have free will, so that we have motivation for our decisions, so that we act as agents. People cling to the idea of free will because without it, what would be the point? I feel certain that the point is to act out an individual existence, for reasons unknown, that take unpredictable twists and turns. There is something in the unpredictability (change) that we need. It's hardwired into us to both need change and to resist it.
I have trouble with phrases such as "I was filled with a sense of my God and his love for me" since I don't believe God has a gender and it's annoying that it's always male whenever one is chosen, and I don't think God keeps track." But then again, "God" may keep track.
Fortunately, I have come to believe that all other people are like me and all should be treated as I would like to be. The Golden Rule is less of an abstraction. So maybe that is my practical spiritual awakening so far.
I knew I was in trouble. I was ready to throw someone I love deeply out of my life forever because he had left unwashed dishes in the sink. I was obviously overreacting, yet I couldn't calm down. I picked up the phone and I called an Al-Anon friend. After hearing me out, she mentioned that I seemed angry about more than dirty dishes. I certainly was. To me, those dishes were evidence of a whole pattern of disrespect. She said that she too became annoyed and became a martyr when faced with the same situation over and over again, but whenever she tried to mend all of the problems within a relationship in a single day, she failed--it just isn't possible to do so. Instead, she tried to deal with one situation at a time.
I still don't like dirty dishes, but I don't have to interpret them as having a deeper meaning. I am learning to take things at face value. Sometimes dirty dishes are just dirty dishes.
Today's Reminder. Why do I allow myself to suffer, to blow small things out of proportion. I can break a situation down to a more meaningful size by taking it one day at a time.
"The whole purpose of Al-Anon is to help us iron out the rough spots in our living, and this can be done only one day at a time."
A good reminder not to live in the "wreckage of the future" and to see annoying behavior for what it is. Putting little acts, no matter how much they seem to add up to something "larger" in their place is critical. We are designed (as humans) to find patterns, but that tendency is meant to be used to problem-solve. I can't solve a problem when it's someone else's behavior by making it larger and more encompassing than it may actually be. It's best to address it one piece at a time. Like the saying goes, "forget the small stuff, and it's all small stuff." I can truly annoyed and even angry when I attach a "story" to what someone else is doing, rather than just seeing it for it's immediate value. The story is only happening in my head, not in the person's behavior. That doesn't mean I can't reason and be aware of patterns, but I do not have to react to them or try to change them.