Flying Free

Flying Free

Tuesday, January 31, 2012

The Blessing of Despair

A new mother sat looking down adoringly at her 5 month old baby girl.  The child squealed delightfully on her mother's lap and the mother met her squeals with smiles.  It was when the mother looked up from her innocent child that her eyes and face told the story of the pain and anguish she was enduring.  She was angry and hiding it relatively well.  I could feel the turmoil radiate from her.  I wanted to jump out of my chair and hold her until all her pain fled; but once again the realization that I am powerless over the disease of alcoholism rushed over me.  I sat in my chair, trying desperately not to stare.  

The members of the Al-Anon group shared their experience, strength and hope and the mother remained silent.  She didn't shed a tear.  She desperately clung to the illusion that she was "fine."  We let her cling.  

I listened as the group shared.  Their stories were different but the same.  The stories were painful but these members, through the miracle of Al-Anon, could relate their experiences with laughter and hope.  I remember how terribly resentful I was at my first Al-Anon meeting because of the laughter.  I didn't understand that people could laugh while living through the disease and consequences of alcoholism.  In my mind, "those Al-Anon lunatics" couldn't possibly know or have been through what I had been through or they certainly would not be laughing.  All of us "lunatic Al-Anons" probably felt that way in the beginning.  How else could we feel?  We had lost our laughter; we felt that our joy had been stolen from us as sure as any thief takes something valuable.  Alcoholism has robbed us of our serenity and joy and had left in it's place nothing but despair.  

There it was.  The blessing of despair.  The one thing that gets many of us insanely obsessed loved-ones of alcoholics into our first Al-Anon meeting.  The new mother had that blessing written all over her face, she just didn't know it was a blessing....yet.

As the meeting ended I made a quick plea to my Higher Power that he would give someone an intuitive thought for this new mother.  As the beautiful young woman wrapped her bundle of joy up to warm her against the temperature outside I touched her arm and said, "I remember my first Al-Anon meeting when I thought that all the people there were crazy because they could laugh about what I thought was a hopeless situation.  I remember thinking that they could not possibly know what I am going through or they would not be laughing.  I remember being angry because those "lunatics" were laughing at a serious situation that I could find no laughter in at all."  She looked at me as I spoke, I thought I saw her let her guard down for just one second as she seemed to relate to exactly what I was saying but her guard went back up quickly.  I smiled and asked her to please come back.  She nodded.

Saturday, January 28, 2012

Dirty Dishes

Yesterday in the Al-Anon book Courage to Change, I read a story about dirty dishes.  I'm sure I've read that story more than once but yesterday it was as if I was reading it for the first time.  The story was about a woman who was ready to throw out someone she loved over some dirty dishes.

Sounds crazy right?

Well guess what?  I can so relate.

I can't tell you the multitude of times when I have come home after being away for a few hours to find my house in total disarray.  I have come home to find piles of dishes in the sink and on the counter when only a few hours earlier the sink and counter were empty.  I have come home to find not one single horizontal area free of clutter.  When I come home and find my house in such a state I can almost hear my deceased mother saying, "A dirty house is a disgrace to the woman of the house."  The thoughts that race through my mind will inevitably set the stage for disaster.  My serenity is lost and the monsters of self-pity and martyrdom take control.

In days of old, I would have spent several hours stomping about trying to clean up the mess that the people who professed they loved me had made.  I would, of course, make sure that my huffing and puffing could be heard for miles, especially by those who live in the same house.  My day would be ruined and I would try to make the rest of the day equally as miserable for those I professed to love.  "I'll fix them, they will never do this to me again.  I'll show them exactly how they make me feel."  Yeah, that didn't work.

Through the gift of Al-Anon, I don't perform as I did in days of old quite as often.  I have come to understand that I don't have to be everything to everybody and I don't have to be any body's live-in maid if I don't want to be.  When I stomped about cleaning everything up I didn't give the people who made the mess the ability to rectify what they had done.  Why would they if I was going to do it anyway?   A change had to be made and it had to begin with me because lord knows my loved ones weren't taking the great hints I was beating them over the head with.

Today, when I walk into my home and see the mess created by the ones I love, I can take a deep breath, close my eyes and say the Serenity Prayer to help ease my discomfort.  I can go to a quiet place and take a few minutes to pray and meditate so I don't give my peace of mind away.  I can even sit on the couch and play with my dogs and leave the dishes and clutter out of my mind.  Can I do this all the time?  No.  What I can say is that when I do "go there" I don't "stay there" for as long as I used to which in my mind is progress.

So, you might be thinking to yourself that I can now sit in a house filled with clutter and dirty dishes.  On some days I can and I live through it.  The more important blessing is that my husband has found an activity that he enjoys doing.  He tells me that when he does dishes he can totally remove himself from all outside interference and stay in the present moment . . . .  washing each dish at a time. . . . drying each dish at a each minute at a time.

Maybe someday I will learn that trying to do everything robs others of finding what they need.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Laundry Blues

I went to the laundromat to wash two king size comforters

 and one king size blanket.

 I ate one bag of animal crackers and drank one can of coke.

I left the laundromat minus $20.00

Lord, how can people afford to stay clean?

Monday, January 23, 2012

Attitude of Gratitude

This morning I woke up rather blah feeling.  I brushed my teeth, ran a brush through my hair and looked at myself in the mirror.  (Insert silent scream here).  I shuffled into the kitchen to make myself my morning tea.  I sighed heavily as my thoughts drifted to my youngest daughter and the pain and hurt she is feeling right now.  "Why?  What did I do that was so terrible?  Why do I feel so unimportant?"  My daughter's words echoed in my mind over and over.  I wanted to scream out, "You didn't do anything wrong" but I remained silent in my opinions and just held her and told her I loved her and I thought she was very special.  I closed my eyes and asked my Higher Power to place his loving arms around her.    The microwave beeped informing me my tea was complete.  My fingers encircled the steaming hot cup warming my hands; the steam from the tea drifting up to warm my face.  My heart remained heavy.

I sat down on the couch in my living room.  My Dobie, sensing that I was feeling low, came over and placed his head in my lap.  I smiled down at him and patted the top of his head; tears welling up in my eyes.  I took a deep breath and started to pray and meditate.  Fifteen minutes later I stopped,  thinking, "this is futile."  I picked up my Al-Anon books and read the pages for today.  One of the pages was on gratitude.  Really?  Gratitude?  I began meditating on gratitude unknowingly; begrudgingly even.  "What do I have to be grateful for this morning?"  Nothing!  I have a daughter whose heart is breaking...... and then I stopped feeling sorry for myself.  The things I had to be grateful for came slowly at first and then they rushed in.  I looked down at my Dobie knowing he was one of the things I can be grateful for.  This morning, I offer you my alphabetical list of gratitude.

A is for Amy, B is for Bill, C is for Caring friends, D is for Dad, E is for Evening when I can rest my weary mind, F is for Felicia, G is Gratitude (that my Higher Power gave me this morning), H is for Helen, I is for Icing, J is for July (the month of my birth), K is for Kisses, L is for Laughter, M is for Mom, N is for good Neighbors, O is for Open Minds, P is for Prayer, Q is for Quiet time, R is for Rory, S is for Sara, T is for Troubled times that I can grow through, U is for Undying love that my Higher Power has for me, V is for Victory (knowing I don't have to fight the fight), W is for Wealth (and not the monetary kind), X is for Xander, and  Z is for a Zest for life that hasn't been in my all my life.

Saturday, January 21, 2012

Growing through Pain

My youngest daughter's relationship with her significant other is on the rocks.  While I have my opinions on why this is happening and what she should do; I can not express them.  My motives in expressing my opinions would be strictly selfish.  If she did what "I" wanted her to do; it would serve only to ease my discomfort and not hers.   One of the many things I have learned in Al-Anon is that no matter what we think may or may not be right in any situation; it is the person directly involved that has to be the one to do what is right for them.  It is them that has to live with the consequences of their actions.

Not to long ago, I would have taken over the situation in my attempt to fix things and make everyone feel all right.  I would have been specific in my recommendations and when things did not go as I planned I would have had to take responsibility for the mess that I created.  Such a heavy burden to carry; not only for the person I encouraged to do things my way but for me as well.  When I arranged everybody's life, I stripped them of their dignity to handle things in their way.  I prolonged the inevitable pain that everyone must go through to grow into the productive, compassionate people that our Higher Power wants us to be.

My daughter's heart is breaking and so is mine.  I wish I could take all the pain and discomfort away from her that she is feeling right now but I know that I can not.  Even if I could take away the pain, should I?  Would that strip her from growing into the person she will be by going through this tough time in her life?  For me, this is another situation where I am truly powerless.  Yes, it still hurts that I can't fix things but I never could and today I realize that stark cold fact.

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Thank You for the Painting

This morning I was in absolute awe of the painting left in the sky for me by my Higher Power.  The colors were the prettiest shades of red and pink mixed with a subtle purple perfectly accented by the bare winter trees reaching their naked branches towards the sky in some sort of silent offering.  The sky was perfectly painted.  I  vacillated between wanting to keep starring at the perfect picture and wanting to break my gaze by running to get my camera to make the Kodak moment last forever.  Although I wish I had a picture of the way my day started, I'm glad that I didn't break my trance from the site before me.  I will have to keep this sunrise inside the Kodak of my mind's eye.  Sometimes remembering things the exact way we experienced them is better than a photo.....sometimes.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Tuning in the Channel

 Right after I brush my teeth, wash my face and make myself a cup of steaming tea, I begin my ritual of prayer and  meditation.  Before I begin my morning of prayer and meditation I have to fine tune the channel.  Tuning my prayer channel reminds me of years ago when I had a radio with a dial on it and I had to play with the dial to make sure the radio station was at it's best so I could listen to my favorite tunes clearly.  I would work the channel so precisely because listening to a crystal clear channel was important to me.  Now, listening to my Higher Power as clearly as I can is important to me so I have to fine tune the channel of my mind.  When I first start praying and meditating in the morning my mind may wonder to what I  have to do that day or what happened yesterday or what may happen tomorrow and I have to tune those bits of static out and fine tune my thinking back to the present and my prayer.  Some days tuning my channel may take more time than other days but it is always worth the little extra time spent to be able to hear a crystal clear Power.

Prayer and meditation was not an easy thing for me to grow accustom to.  I learned their valuable worth through Al-Anon.  In the past, my thoughts on meditation had a very strong visual attached.  I believed you could not meditate unless there was some very strong incense burning, you sat on the floor with your legs contorted into an impossible position, your arms were outstretched, you made a low humming sound and your eyes were closed.  Prayer was always something I knew about.  Prayer was me begging God to do what I wanted Him to do and Him saying "No, you've been way to bad for me to do that for you."  Having those ideas in my mind gave me permission not to pray or meditate...EVER.

Today, I know that prayer and meditation is just a sweet conversation between me and my Higher Power.  The prayer part is me asking to have my Higher Power's will done in my life and the meditation part is me learning to listen.

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Great Day!

Ever have a day that you wish would never come to an end?  Today was one of those days for me.  It's not that the day was packed with things out of the ordinary to see and do; it was more of a feeling.

A little after 9am, my brother drove to my house to pick my father and I up for breakfast.  Generally there is a huge family crowd that goes out to breakfast but this morning it was just the three of us.  My father sat in the booth across from my brother and myself which was kind of odd since my brother likes to sit by himself on his side of the booth.  The three of us sat, ate and enjoyed each other's company.

I don't know if my brother is having a difficult time with my father's age as of late but he keeps repeating, "I can't believe he's 80."  It is a difficult concept to grasp when the man who is 80 is doing as much for you now as when you were a child; or at least you think he is.

After breakfast, my brother dropped us off at home with a quick, "I'll see you guys later at dinner."  We both waved goodbye to him as he drove off; the snow crunching beneath his tires as he drove off.

I grabbed my father's arm so he... I mean I...  wouldn't slip on the sidewalk.  The pace was steady but slower than it was years ago.  I didn't mind the slow pace, but I knew that it bothered him.  Lately, he's been telling me a little too often how he is "feeling his age."  He keeps telling me that he thinks he's a little less sure-footed when walking.  Today, I made a point of telling him that he had to walk me to the house because I was afraid I was going to slip and fall.

When we entered the house we were greeted by our three dogs; each of them vying for the immediate attention of my father.  The dogs have been my father's earthly salvation, bringing him out of the depths of depression after my mother died.  I fondly tell my father often, "If I would have known that all it took to make you nice was to get a few dogs, I'd have done it years ago."  We both laugh, but we both know that those dogs have done for him what no other human being was able to do.  The gave him back his reason to live.  My father spent years taking care of my mother and when she died he didn't feel needed anymore.  The dogs need him.

After playing with the "pups" as he calls them, he went to his room for a little nap; the two small dogs curling up in their beds situated on the floor beside his bed.  I puttered around the house not doing anything important.

I woke him up about an hour before the big "birthday dinner" to get dressed.  "Well woman, go get me my tuxedo to wear."  I rolled my eyes at him as I trotted off to get his "good clothes" to wear.  Ok, I have to tell you that if I don't hide his good clothes from him he'll wear them to fix the car, work in the garage, paint the house or whatever strikes his fancy at the time.  I have learned that I have save a few good things for him to wear because if I don't, when we have to go somewhere nice, he doesn't have a thing to wear.

Dinner was good, the conversation was pleasant, and the company was great.  Dad sat at the head of the table like a king; the only thing missing was the crown.  (It was invisible so only the family could see it.)  After dinner we made our way to my brother's house for cake and ice cream.  My sister-in-law had the house decorated with balloons and streamers and signs that wished him a happy birthday.  His  four grandchildren surrounded him as we sang happy birthday; the 80 candles (yes 80) melting into the cake.

After dishing out the cake and ice cream, my father opened up his gifts.  Most of his gifts had a New York Yankees theme; after all what do you buy a man who has everything he wants and tells you he doesn't want any gifts?  I broke the theme and had a t-shirt made with a picture of his dogs on the front.  I think he liked it.

Soon the festivities were over and it was time for us to go home.  Once again as he and I walked in the snow I grabbed him arm so he could help me in the house.  As we walked into the house he said, "You know, I don't want to be President, the days are too long."  I didn't say anything, I just smirked.

He took off his coat and flung it over the dining room chair.  He grabbed two hot dogs from the refrigerator and microwaved them.  He gave our big dog a pat on the head and scratched behind his ear.  He took the hot dogs back to his bedroom so he could give the two smaller dogs their evening treat. "That's life big boy and big girl," he said to the dogs.  "That is life."  I'm not sure what he meant and I was too afraid to ask.

When I finally got myself all settled down and started to take his presents back to his room he was sleeping in his bed.  He was still in his "tuxedo" and he was sound asleep.  I watched his breathing for a little while and then I shut his door; still holding most of his presents in my arms.

Toasting with a Plastic Glass

My father lives with me.  Today is his 80th birthday.  Wow, 80 years old.  Just this week he dug a whole in my basement and put in a new sump pump, built himself a new TV stand, and transplanted a huge shelf that he made a couple of years ago.  This morning, when my brother and I were out to breakfast with him, he asked me when I was going to get the paint so he can start painting my daughter's kitchen.  He tires me just to watch him "keep himself busy."  

My father is a proud man.  He's always been self-supporting and self-motivated.  He likes to do things himself and takes pride in his work.  His mind is quick and his body is aging.  It frustrated him that it may take him twice as long to do a job as it did a few years ago.  I am constantly reminding him that he is so much younger than the 80 years he has become.  He doesn't see it, but I do.  I see a man so much more active than many of his 80 year old counterparts.

One of the things that my father tends to focus on is his inability at times to grasp items in his hands as firmly as he once did which has resulted in many a glass, coffee cup and dish crashing to the floor and shattering to pieces.  This "flaw" tends to frustrate him the most.  I have attempted to ease his discomfort by buying plastic cups and paper plates so that his accidents are not shattering.  In my mind, it is a very small price to pay for a man who does so much for me.

Not to long ago, as a plastic glass slipped through his fingers and the contents spilled over the floor, he looked at me and said, "Don't you get sick of this?  Aren't you embarrassed that you make people drink out of plastic cups when they visit?"  

"Nope, not at all," I replied.

"I don't believe that, you have to be a little embarrassed."

"Sounds like you are more embarrassed than I am.  If it makes you more comfortable, I'll use the good paper products for company."  I gave him a quick grin and went back to cleaning the contents of the spilled drink.

I could almost feel him smiling as he shook his head.  The truth is, I'd trade all my dishes, glasses and cups for his comfort and not feel one damn bit ashamed about doing it.


Saturday, January 14, 2012

A Child's Laughter

Years ago, I remember "everyone" saying there isn't anything better than a child's laughter.  While agreeing that they were probably right, I thought that people must have meant that the best laughter was from a child under the age of adulthood.  Last night I opened my eyes and ears and knew I had been wrong for so many years.  My daughter is a 32 year old professional woman with a life of her own.  I have always thought that she got a little too excited over "childish" things and just accepted it as being "her."  I learned a very valuable lesson from her excitement last night; one I should have learned years ago.

Last evening, my husband and I went out to dinner with our two daughters.  Dinner took a little more time than anticipated so I made arrangements to ride home with my two daughters and my husband would pick me up after the meeting he had been planning to attend.  The three of us had a pleasant evening.  The two of them made jokes about me not being able to adequately use my smart phone and I told them that they probably wouldn't know how to interact with the human race if their smart phones didn't have a google app telling them how to do it.

While discussing what can and can not be done with a smart phone, the two dogs, one being a very active 10 week old puppy, began feeling neglected and demanded attention.  All three of us turned our attention immediately to the neglected canines.  Her ferocious canines playfully mauled us and each other as they fought for our attention.  The dogs determined that 20 minutes was enough time to exercise their humans, so after the allotted time, each retired to the side of their owner and all was quiet except for the pleasant sounds of human conversation.

Suddenly there was a knock on the door and both of the dogs raised their head and looked up to their owner as if to say, "how dare someone disturb our quiet family."  Knowing that it was my husband at the door, my eldest daughter jumped up from the couch like a toddler excited about a present being given to her.

"Oh my God!  Oh my God!  It's your grandpa pups, it's your grandpa!"  She started to do the Snoopy happy dance and incited the dogs to a near ecstatic frenzy.  Her dance continued as she opened the door and her affectionate dogs greeted my husband.  The dogs tails were wagging excitedly and if my daughter had a tail hers would be the one that was wagging the most.  She laughed and laughed, her entire face engulfed by her laugh.  I sat with amazement as I watched her face and actions being engulfed by her laugh.  Yes, this was a childish act that I will treasure forever.


Friday, January 13, 2012

Things My Father Says

As I was surfing the web this morning I ran across a twitter site called "Shit my dad says."  I couldn't stop laughing once I started reading the words of wit spoken by a 74 year old man.  What I found so hilarious about the quotes was that they could have been spoken by my 80 year old father.  Apparently, with age and maturity comes the liberty of saying whatever it is you want to say, in whatever manner you want to say it, and in front of whomever you want to say it..  For those of us who have not quite reached that age of maturity that our parents have obtained, it is sometimes more than a little embarrassing to us when they spout off their opinions. 

Often times I have felt my face turn scarlet or rolled my eyes to the outlandish words uttered from my father's mouth.  I have to stop and remind myself that these moments of embarrassment will later turn into the memories that will turn my tears into laughter.

Thursday, January 12, 2012