Thursday, October 30, 2008

Tug of war....

James Arthur Ray says:

Humans are both biological and spiritual beings. The spirit desires expansion -- that's where we get the idea to attain a goal in the first place. Our biology, however, dictates that we seek security and safety -- that's why we feel resistance to anything unfamiliar. So the spiritual impulse is to grow, and the biological impulse is to keep things as they are.
Chuck C., in his speech that became the book A New Pair of Glasses, quotes from Hindu scriptures the first verse of the Isha Upanishad:
The whole world is the garment of the Lord. Renounce it, then, and receive it back as the gift of God.
On page 68 of the Big Book Alcoholics Anonymous, pay attention to the word "Just:"
Just to the extent that we do as we think He would have us, and humbly rely on Him, does He enable us to match calamity with serenity.
I've been struggling with trying to understand how to remove a self-imposed ceiling on success. Over a period of several days since I first started the draft of this entry, God's been actively working on telling me. I've been listening, absorbing, becoming open to his input. Chuck C, going on from the quote above, says that as long as something meant something to him, he couldn't have it. He admonishes us not to do anything as a means to an end---even to the extent of doing something to get to heaven. We don't act nice so somebody will love us, we don't limit ourselves so we won't draw attention to ourselves, we don't work hard to get ahead and have a secure income and protection for ourselves and our loved ones. Those aren't necessarily bad things to try for, but tyring for them he describes (the examples are mostly mine and not his) as self-robbery. He tells us to be good for nothing. My editor friends would have a field-day trying to edit that sentence. I have a feeling it needs a dash or something, but I like it the way it is. I'm going on that goal--being good for nothing. I'll strive to figure out God's will for me at the moment and do that, leaving the rest to him.
Perhaps the best thing of all for me is to remember that my serenity is inversely proportional to my expectations. The higher my expectations of Max and other people are, the lower is my serenity. I can watch my serenity level rise when I discard my expectations. But then my "rights" try to move in, and they too can force my serenity level down. I have to discard my "rights," as well as my expectations, by asking myself, How important is it, really? How important is it compared to my serenity, my emotional sobriety? And when I place more value on my serenity and sobriety than on anything else, I can maintain them at a higher level--at least for the time being. (Alcoholics Anonymous, 4th edition, page 420)
 And finally:
To yield to "seeming" is man's essential cowardice, to resist it is his essential courage. -- Martin Buber
So, I'm off to be good for nothing.

Saturday, October 25, 2008

Off the radar--until today.

Had I sat a thousand hours, intent on honest self-examination, my list of character defects wouldn't have included anxiety. In the first place, it doesn't seem like a character defect. In the second, it didn't seem like my character defect. But that's what God's got me focusing on today.

Angeles Arrien wrote:

Anxiety is an energetic experience caused by holding back. Basically, it is the state of frustration. It is the experience of having abundant energy but not knowing what to do with that energy, or it's a lot of energy that's being contained or held back, which will produce anxiety or the state of strife.... ...creative power that does not want to be limited, restricted or restrained, and desires full expression....

Any holding back or self limitation will move you into that state in alchemy which was known as 
leaded consciousness.... In states of anxiety or strife you have difficulty accessing inherent wisdom....

This Mac computer's internal dictionary gives the definition "a feeling of worry, nervousness, or unease, typically about an imminent event or something with an uncertain outcome." At that I chuckle. It's that feeling Dr. Silkwood described as he wrote for the Big Book:
Men and women drink essentially because they like the effect produced by alcohol. The sensation is so elusive that, while they admit it is injurious, they cannot after a time differentiate the true from the false. To them, their alcoholic life seems the only normal one. They are restless, irritable and discontented, unless they can again experience the sense of ease and comfort which comes at once by taking a few drinks -- drinks which they see others taking with impunity. After they have succumbed to the desire again, as so many do, and the phenomenon of craving develops, they pass through the well-known stages of a spree, emerging remorseful, with a firm resolution not to drink again. This is repeated over and over, and unless this person can experience an entire psychic change there is very little hope of his recovery. (Alcoholics Anonymous, pages xxvii-xxix)

Of course we overeaters see the same addictive behavior in ourselves, the same restlessness, irritability, discontent -- the anxiety. Funny, how sticking a new name on something I already identified with gives it new life! In the next paragraph, Silkwood says:

On the other hand -- and strange as this may seem to those who do not understand -- once a psychic change has occurred, the very same person who seemed doomed, who had so many problems he despaired of ever solving them, suddenly finds himself easily able to control his desire for alcohol, the only effort necessary being that required to follow a few simple rules.

So, the message of the day is that the necessity for computer games and unplanned eating goes away along with restlessness, irritability, and discontent, and creative energy flows unchecked when we go back to the source, check in on that psychic change, and remove the blockages of our own will from God's taking our lives and rocketing us into the fourth dimension. I lived yesterday without computer games, and the food came close to plan. That's a way to describe yesterday from the standpoint of anxiety -- the things I avoided with God's help. Now, let's see what can happen with the same behaviors when the negatives aren't in charge, anxiety is swept away with other defects that stand in the way of my usefulness to God and my fellows, and creativity's cage is crushed.

My Creator, I am now willing that you should have all of me, good and bad. I pray that you now remove from me every single defect of character which stands in the way of my usefulness to you and my fellows. Grant me strength, as I go out from here, to do your bidding. Amen. (Alcoholics Anonymous, page 76)

Friday, October 24, 2008

In the clutches....

"Serially obsessive." That's how I've described myself for years. The obsessions varied over the years, including genealogy, medieval history, knitting, crewel embroidery, counted cross stitch, refinishing furniture, writing a macro in Word that would have generated a long involved court order with MANY variables but actually resulted in killing at least two hard drives, teaching myself html coding, photography, the history of women in my profession, crossword puzzles and, alas, computer games. The computer games have varied over the years beginning way back when we got an old TI-99A4 computer for the boys and I taught myself to get through all the levels of the original Mario Brothers game. Lately they've been sudoku, Yubotu, and word drop. But they're insidious.
I admitted another compulsion that came into my mind with clarity on December 17, 2006, that being the obsession with food, with compulsive eating. It's not serial. It's parallel with all the rest all the time forever. Computer games and compulsive eating. Totally different animals. But it's the same illness, and when one rears its head, its sister accompanies. I have not played a computer game today. I have not eaten compulsively today. I will not play a computer game today, with God's help. I will not eat outside my food plan today, but that's impossible on my own strength.
How good can you be? More specifically, what level of achievement is permissible for you? What's the picture of the pinnacle of success for you? The Nobel Prize? An Oscar? A New York Times Best Seller? Establishing a Fortune 500 business? Election to the Senate? Amassing a hundred million dollars? What's the top?
Is it okay for you to get to the top? That's the question that set me back, that started my almost intentional procrastination--chronic low-intensity fear. My actual answer is easy. No. It's not okay for me to get to the top. Of course that begs the hard one, WHY!!?? Simple answer? You might see me.
That's ludicrous. I'm a public figure. I give speeches, take a leadership role in most things I participate in, stick myself out for you to see. How can the answer be "you might see me?" Expectations. I was raised with high expectations, the duty to be educated, to be a professional, to be a leader. And I've achieved that. Yet the achievements match or reflect those of most members of the family. What if I let go and lose control? What if I chance to reach one of those superlatives? OR HIGHER! Ouch! That's terrifying. Harrowing. Paralyzing.
Yeah. Paralyzing. If I stay here, if I fall backward, if I wander around on the same plateau, you won't look at me. But if I really let go and let God have control of my life? What if he reached my wildest dreams for me? My wildest dreams are nightmares of embarrassment, of being in the limelight. Help!
Tomorrow's Yesterday
It's more comfortable to sit in a corner
than to sort out a meaningful path,
to stay in stasis at yesterday.
I meant for my life to matter,
I yearn for difference tomorrow
though comfort means to sit around.
How boring - though safe - to sit around,
sucking my thumb, a tot in a corner
hiding from fear of tomorrow,
fear of the forks in the path
but heck, does it really matter
whether I fear the unknown or yesterday?
How soothing is the fiend yesterday?
Resentments dance with shoulds around
oughts and regrets. A trivial matter
lurks there for years, leaping from a corner
into my way, blocking the well-chosen path
to imagined triumphs and honor tomorrow.
What if I fall on my face, humbled tomorrow
as I have been these countless haunting yesterdays?
Does nobility, courage of the chosen path
shine brightly, or does disaster peek at me around
another inevitable blind corner -
ubiquitous "theys" say only todays matter.
I could have been a contender. I could matter
in grand schemes of the history of tomorrow.
Does fame - or infamy - lurk around that corner?
When I look at the future as another yesterday
will it seem to have changed for I was around?
Will admiration trace my innovative path?
Like Merlin, God lives backwards, the path
clear from one end as the other, matters'
meanings unmuddled. He turns around
and surveys, satisfied, countless tomorrows
and the coming versions of yesterday
laid out clearly, unblocked by turns and corners.
God's present, around as I ponder each path
knowing what a corner may hide. It doesn't matter
I can't see tomorrow. It's my God's yesterday. 

Saturday, October 4, 2008

My usefullness to my fellows...

Consider Acts 2:42-47
Life will take on new meaning. To watch people recover, to see them help others, to watch loneliness vanish, to see a fellowship grow up about you, to have a host of friends--this is an experience you must not miss. We know you will not want to miss it. (Alcoholics Anonymous, page 89)
Fellowship. The three definitions you'll usually find include a group of people, like an association; the position in a university; and the one that I want to talk about. It seems oddly appropirate that the Big Book talks so much of our fellows. Of course it's an old-fashioned (and not politically correct) term to talk of friends or associates, but it emphasizes that aspect that's so hard to actually define. One attempt is "a feeling of friendship that people have when they are talking or doing something together and sharing their experiences." Another is "the companionship of individuals in a congenial atmosphere and on equal terms." (American Heritage® Dictionary) Yes equal terms, captain's table and steerage, all together.

This has been a draft on my computer for at least three days, to the extent when I opened it last night I wasn't sure where I had intended to go with it, what I was reading when I started it. I have remembered. Duh. It was that passage of the Big Book quoted at the top. But this morning I know where it's now going. I go through long spells when I tend to write books more than read them, but recently I've read (in the last five or so months) maybe ten novels for the heck of it. I picked up one at the grocery the other day. When I read the back cover blurb I knew I ought to put it down. It was a romance rather than the mysteries I normally gravitate to, but it still intrigued me and I bought it, and have read it in bits and snatches. This morning I read what I was supposed to read when I felt drawn to it. The book is Kay Hooper's If There Be Dragons and the passage is:

Brooke, who'd seen quite a few psychologists and parapsychologists in her time, knew what that was called: psychological visibility. It as a basic need of human beings, according to the theory, to be clearly seen by at least one other person.  

Exactly! That's what fellowship means. In the way I've been trying to grab hold of the word. That's the "Welcome to Overeaters Anonymous, welcome home!" line in it's depth of meaning. Finally after all these years, it's okay at OA to be clearly seen by not just one but lots of other people because in the most embarrassing and heart-wrenching way, they're just like us!

Hey, my fellows, thanks!