Wednesday, December 23, 2015

The Auschwitz Season

*** I can't thank you all enough for your outpouring of support on my last post.  It really made a HUGE difference, and if it weren't for your kind words, I know I'd have locked everything down again.  Thank you for your love. ***
 
I was recently called to teach Sunday School to 7th graders.  This is great news because it means I get to spend time NOT with peers.  Sometimes beings with peers is hard, right?  Especially in church when they talk about things that used to be normal for me and are now painful for me.

"When we said yes in marriage, we MEANT it and stayed married."
"Kids these days..."
"Doom."
"Gloom."
"If you want to stop doing something, just make a decision and DO IT."
(#whiteknuckling)

I love my 7th graders.  This last week, they spent 15 minutes teaching how to tie a tie.  They spent the rest of the time giggling over a face one of the kids were making.
And yeah -I taught 4 boys that day.

One of those boys has expressed interest in Viktor Frankl, so while I was ordering Christmas stuff on Amazon I plopped, "Man's Search for Meaning" in my cart.  When it arrived, I decided I'd better read it through before giving it to him, just in case there was graphic stuff -I didn't want his parents knocking down my lil' trailer door.

It's a fascinating read -it makes my trailer feel like palace and my oatmeal seem extravagant.

There's a passage where Frankl talks about suffering.  As he lived each day in a concentration camp (Auschwitz), he decided that the POINT of each day was suffering.  He expected suffering and faced it -not so much with valor and class everyday, but with a sense of... I don't know... duty?  He leaned into the suffering and searched for a purpose.  As a doctor fascinated with research, he imagined himself on a stage teaching others about what he'd learned in the camp.  He thought of the research paper he'd been working on, how he needed to rewrite and finish it (it had been confiscated).

This passage did something for me.  It really did.

While my life is nowhere near suffering, it is hard right now.  Trials dovetail as they never have before, and I keep sort of waiting for some reprieve.  I keep waiting for a rest stop, a breather.  But much like my body in labor, I'm not getting one.  No break between contractions and pressure, Alicia, not for you.

I've moved into a sort of acceptance.
This is my time to be uncomfortable.  Each day is uncomfortable.  Instead of flailing against it, fighting against the powers that be and WAITING for it to end so I can get back to living... I can lean into the hurt, the discomfort.
There is much to learn, much to uncover.

As I wade through health issues, I will learn more about my body.  I will grow and grow in knowledge about anatomy and science, health and nutrition, truth!

As I wade through the mess that is my marriage, I will learn about brain workings, about healthy thinking, the underestimated power of stress vs. peace.

Where are the books written for AFTER sobriety, by the way?  What comes after sobriety?  How is trust rebuilt?  How do you learn to count on each other?  Lean on each other?  Handle the burns and the hurts?
Marriage AFTER sobriety is scary too.
Funny, isn't it?  I remember thinking if I could just get rid of porn (hypothetically) everything would be SO much better.  Realizing that porn was just a sort of symptom of bigger issues was unnerving and empowering.  Awareness is ironic like that.

Tonight, I'm very uncomfortable. The point of my discomfort is knowledge.  It's a sort of search for truth and wisdom -God loves me enough to give it to me through the most effective means possible: hands on, the hard way.

It's my Auschwitz Season.

Wednesday, December 9, 2015

With Love

I locked you all out for awhile.

It started out from a healthy place... really and truly.  My blog was found by some folk who don't agree with the way I'm living my life, and I shut it down simply to stave off the crazy traffic surge.
"Forty days," I told myself, "A Forty-day break should do it."
During which time I committed myself to a 40-day yoga program (Baron Baptiste) and spent a lot of time re-centering.
The words from The Folks Who Found Me haunted me during this time.  Because, see, they think I'm wrong.
I have a grave fear of being wrong.

I didn't realize how deep this fear ran until I was on the mat during those 30+ days (I didn't finish the program on account of family issues).  As I moved from week-to-week, from position to position, I said to myself, "Alicia, you're doing this wrong."

Alicia, you are bending your knees and you shouldn't.
Alicia, you can't touch your feet and you should.
Alicia, your feet...
Alicia, your hands...

I would try to release tension, mind talk and my own schedule.
Even then, all I could do was, "Alicia, you're not letting go, and you should."

I know you all have an answer for me right now.  I know that my "shoulding" is wrong, and if I had a penny for every person who said, "don't should on yourself" I'd have at least 20 cents.

As I stepped off my mat and went to my kitchen to eat and wash dishes:
Alicia, you're eating wrong.
Alicia, you're washing wrong.
Alicia, couldn't you be cleaner?  healthier?

At work:
Alicia, you could be more efficient.

At the store:
Alicia, you could be saving money better, but you're not.

I have a deep-rooted fear that I'm going to live wrong, and isn't that silly?  Because isn't living wrong a given?  We ALL do it! We are all blessed with weaknesses that are our own uniquely carved pathways leading upward to God!  And don't we know it!  We feel EV.ER.Y step of that uphill incline!

Long story short:
The folks who found my blog took to a forum to discuss exactly what they thought about the way 'm handling things.  And even after I locked my blog down, they shared screen shots they'd taken.

I have spent HOURS surrendering.  And yes:
Alicia, you're feeling this wrong.  If you really believed what you're living, their words wouldn't touch you.

Ouch,Self.

I can argue their points.  I can.  I could apply myself with fervor to their assumptions and perceptions, fight back!  But you know what?  Yeah, you know what, so say it with me, "It doesn't matter."  They can believe what they want, they can say what they want, for it is given unto them.  But one things that rang true time and time again was simply this:

My people are Love People.
They come together to heal and to share.  They uplift, they strengthen.  They say hard things to me, but never out of spite... only out of love.  Christ lived the same way, saying hard things out of love.  And we have to do hard things when we love ourselves.
Please understand that right now in my life, 8 hours of sleep, three meals, and exercise all in one day is VERY hard, but it is the LOVING thing for me to do for me.

The words spoken by The Folks Who Found Me were so hate-filled, so filled with sarcasm and contempt.  It was that very hate that saved me.

There is no truth in hate.
There is no God in hate.
God is truth.
God is love.

I am love.
The Folks Who Found Me are also love, though they aren't feeling it right now.

I will say now that instead of unlocking my blog when I felt I should, I kept it locked out of fear.
Except for that one time when I unlocked it for 5 minutes and locked it again.  I conquered fear for almost 5 full minutes!
Tonight, I'm logging back in from a place of love.  My blog following is very small, my web presence inconsequential.

I don't want to be known or found or shared or loud.
I was a small, tucked away house-by-the-river, barefoot in the kitchen kind of life.

God wants me to share my life anyway.  As soon as I could talk, I shared.
It's a painful thing and a scary thing and sometimes a much-hated thing, but I know how arguing with God goes...
So at the mercy of Him, I'm back.

There is a grand chance I'll be hit with more pain, more doubt and much more opposition.
But God is with me.
Namaste.

Monday, October 5, 2015

With What Is

My mom is really good at games.  She fills out crosswords in record time, answers trivia questions with ease, and loves to watch game shows when she gets a chance.  Growing up, Jeopardy! came on right around the time Mom started making dinner, and I think it helped her manage the stress that came from feeding 7 other people for the THIRD time in one day, knowing she'd be doing it again and again and again.
"What is."
It was the most common "answer" to all of the Jeopardy! trivia.
Except it wasn't an answer, it was a question.  The maddening paradox of Jeopardy! is the "answer in the form of a question" rule because, of course, the questions were actually answers.

This last week, I found myself stuck in a place I like to call "What Is." It's a place where I find answers to questions.  Rather, it's a place where I WAIT for answers to questions.
I LOVE research.  I think I inherited my mother's hunger for information, but it came without the ribbons and fanfare... I am absolute BUNK at games and trivia and I can only finish crosswords with a cheat sheet.

Research lights me on fire, especially when I'm researching PEOPLE.  The best pay off in research in ANSWERS.  I love getting answers.

But what happens when you don't get them as you're looking for them?  What happens when there's no book to look in?  Nothing to punch into the Google search bar?  No person to call for YOUR OWN answer?

This is the place, "What Is."
Sitting in "What Is" has proven time and time again to be one of the most uncomfortable experiences of my life.  I squirm because I am NOT patient.  The lack of answers becomes more painstaking than the actual question.

There's a Zen saying -a humorous one -that goes, "Don't just do something -sit there."
Yes, it's funny.  But it is also SO FREAKING SPOT ON for me.  (I'm reading about Zen-like stuff right now.  More about that soon...)

I happened to read an article in a church magazine this last week that was really, really hard for me.  It was about pornography and there was truth in it, but I felt (and feel) there was something off.
So what IS IT?
WHY am I feeling this?

I was triggered.  I reached out and prayed, I called my sponsor.  I processed and I still felt a painful stab in my heart -I felt OFF all around, and I couldn't seem to burst out of the feeling of it all.

I WANTED TO BE OKAY while I waited, while I sat with What Was. Being calm in stressful situations is a personal goal of mine, and I was frustrated with myself -that I WASN'T calm while I waited for answers from God.  In short, I was impatient with myself and impatient with God's lack of answer.
And that double-fold impatience because heavier than the questions I had!

I was annoying myself.

Leading up to this point, God had carefully prepared me. I had gotten back into doing my dailies, and the day I'd read the article, I was in a good place emotionally, physically and spiritually. In the days leading up to my reading the article, I'd been reading a book loaned to me by a friend -it isn't a recovery book at all, but IT ACTUALLY IS.  It's a book about yoga, and as I read it, I feel like my soul is getting a massage, and sometimes I fall asleep because it just FEELS so good.

Days before reading the article, I read a passage in the book that put words to something I'd been trying to put words on for years... the place known as "What Is."

"Through patience, you can possess your soul.  When you catch yourself speeding through life, when you feel you must meet expectations and that so much of being left undone or that you're not succeeding as quickly as you think you should be, you must remember that real growth doesn't come from pushing through or breaking out of anything.  Rather, it comes through a gentle melting in.  The path of patience asks you to be okay with what is, stare it straight in the eye, and open to and learn from what's happening rather than contracting into fear, frustration, and a hidden drive to meet your expectations at any costs.  We must remember that when everything has to be right, something usually isn't." ~Baron Baptiste, "40 Days to Personal Revolution"

As I talked with my sponsor and processed my swirling reaction, I said, "I need to MELT IN."  The next day after I called her again to be accountable for my lack of serenity that was still hanging on, I left a message on her phone and then looked up at my husband and said, "I need to figure out how to be calm and find peace in WHAT IS."
So many prayers were said.
Tears popped to my eyes as I tried to force open a heart that felt hard during General Conference.

 I was reminded of another passage in the book that absolutely fascinated me.

"Each year, I conduct a weeklong bootcamp in the mountains of Montana.  A Lakota elder medicine man takes us through a sweat lodge ceremony, in which up to ten of us sit close together in a pitch-dark tent around a blazing fire, praying and chanting.  I always notice an interesting phenomenon: certain people insist on sitting right by the little exit flap of the tent.  They are adamant, claiming they must be near the door.  I have witnessed these same people break down into intense emotions, fear, and often racking sobs.  You later hear them say that as the steam and heat increased and filled the space with full intensity, they were sure that something terrible was going to happen.  They convinced themselves to stay by saying that if they were near the door, they would be able to make it through to the end.  The truth is that even if they didn't sit by the door, they would make it through.
In our total commitment to inner revolution and growth, we don't get to sit near the door.  We don't get to duck out if the process becomes uncomfortable.  We learn to stay with ourselves, no matter what." ~Baron Baptiste, "40 Days to Personal Revolution"

On Sunday, some solid answers came.  Mercifully short timing.

How can I learn to be okay while I sit in "What Is"?
There's no trivia answers, no outside answer, nothing I can read or study or outline or memorize... the answer is deeply personal to me and found deep within myself.

I can only access it by delving inside -by STAYING WITH MYSELF, no matter what.

I hope I'll get better at it, and I know it will take a great deal of practice.  My impatience is truly one of my grandest stepping stones to God (that's just a nice way of saying it's my biggest thorn in my side).


This morning, I walked outside into the fresh, crisp morning and let my toes enjoy the wet grass -it rained last night... the heavy, gorgeous kind of rain where the sheets fall so fast it looks like mythical creatures are dancing in mid-air.  This morning, everything was new.  I let my bare feet soak up the wet green grass.
How much longer will our grass be green?
I don't think about it.  I can't live in the future.  It's just a shadow of the present, as my pretend-friend James Allen says.
I keep quiet.  I had purposefully NOT checked social media before heading outside.  I pay attention to my breath, and it feels like I'm oxygenating anew my entire being -the stale air from my bedroom was exiting through my mouth as I breathed in the brand new air from the after-storm.
My mind begins to wander and I practice being gentle about pulling it back.  I'm mildly successful.  I begin my prayers, and find that as I pray and give thanks for what it around me and with me, I want to drop my hands down to my side, palms facing forward.
With my mind still and calm, my eyes closed, my palms open, mirroring my heart, I tell God I am ready.
At that exact moment, the sun burst forth from behind a dark rain cloud.  Though my eyes remained closed, I could feel the light.  I could "see" the light changing, everything brightened up behind my eyelids, and I felt God's warm love wash over me completely.


In that moment, I found that What Is was in my front yard, and that God lives forever in What Is.
What Is isn't always painful, but it always has the potential to be peaceful and it always is a place where I can learn, grow and increase in wisdom and humility.

What Is.
It's elusive and also?  The only place we really have.
The past can't be be fully lived in.
The future can't be fully lived in.
Trying to live from from either of them produces only pain, regret, and a shallow kind of life.

The present is What Is.

(I feel like I need to add a disclaimer: I took the pictures AFTER being present.  I didn't snap them in the moment because snapping pictures has the potential to sometimes take me OUT of the moment. Amen.)



Thursday, October 1, 2015

Back to the Beginning

"I can learn to do that again," I said a few minutes before hanging up.  I had called my sponsor -something I've done pretty sparsely these last few months. 
Learning to do things again is something I'm becoming very familiar with.  My ego HATES it.

Yesterday I sat in my big, broken-in leather easy chair with rips on the arm.  It swallows me whole, and I understand why men on sitcoms fight their TV wives to keep their ripped recliners around.  I don't care if it's ugly -it is beautiful to me.  Life would be harder without the recliner.

I finished up a documentary I'd been mildly interested in when I clicked on it and wildly fascinated with when the ending credits rolled.  It was short -only an hour -and it was about a woman channeling healing through yoga following the death of her mother.  I was amazed to find so much truth, so much of the work I do in recovery is in yoga!  As I listened to them talk about finding and accessing serenity within, about honoring our innate, something hit me.
Something that felt really heavy.

I'd allowed myself to be talked out of honoring my innate.  I'd second-guessed, I'd doubted, and I'd allowed others to speak to me in a way that was NOT okay.
I didn't realize it was even happening in the moment.  I didn't realize it until WEEKS later.

I realized I'd spent the last few weeks in a place I'd been in before -a dark and scary place where truth and light are sparse, a snake hole... a dark tunnel, my anxiety keeping me nice and tense as I waited for an inevitable strike.

I picked up the phone and called my sponsor. After a frank conversation about my lack of REACHING OUT, she said to me, "Recognizing when our serenity is gone is one of the first pieces of the foundation of our recovery."
My shoulders fell so hard I thought they hit the floor.
First?
Foundation?
Shouldn't I be BEYOND this now?  I've been working the steps for almost 6 years!

My mind shot back to a few months before when I'd joined a meeting via phone and after leaving my first share there ever, someone remarked, "Alicia, I remember how hard it was for me when I was first starting out as well."
I laughed in a cry sort of way.

I took a walk with God last week.  I thought I was surrendering to Him what I couldn't control, but there was so much inside of me that was EATING THROUGH me.  I didn't know what to do or how to do it or where to go.  I sat on the banks of my Dad's irrigation ditch and I prayed as the Arizona sun soaked into my skin.
"I'm so sick all of the time.  What is the POINT?  Do I have a point right now?  Or is my job just to be sick?  What is there to learn from sickness?"
I vented to God and tears welled up in my tired eyes.  I talked to Him about marriage, how marriage is really very hard and how I didn't know it would be!  I didn't expect it to be EASY but I couldn't have prepared for how HARD IT IS.
How do I manage my anxiety?  Can You take it?
How do I let go of things I can't control?  Will You take them?
What can I do to get better?  What can I take or read or try?

I opened my eyes after a solid "amen" and they landed on the roots of a tree I've seen a million times before without every really SEEING.
I felt God communicate with me.
The trunk, branches and leaves of the tree were strong... but when I looked down, the roots were exposed.  This tree is a Chinese Elm -it grew spontaneously and I know from experience how hard they are to get rid of.  I truly hate them.  You can cut them, you can burn them... but unless you get at their very roots, you are wasting so many valuable hours and so much precious energy on futility.

And there.
There on the ditch bank, staring up at me, were ROOTS. The water rushing by had washed the dirt away and exposed the roots.  The tree is weak.


I snapped a picture of the roots and nodded at God.  I have been fussing over branches again.  I have been ignoring the roots again.
I have been trying to manage the symptoms that come up when I ignore the roots.  Anxiety and sickness and disconnection and confusion run rampant when I choose to stay with danger... when I choose NOT to keep myself safe, chaos takes over.  When I go to God with my discomfort, with my fear and then I TAKE ACTION... peace reigns.

I thought I was, but you know what big piece was missing?
The accountability piece.  My sponsor didn't have to say it. I knew it.  In my going to God, I was being half-heartedly accountable to Him, but I wasn't reaching out to the very precious support system in place around me.  Those angels on earth, sent to lift me as I lift them! My sisters in group, my sisters in my support circles, my sponsors (neither of them), my Bishop!

I hadn't reached out for accountability.

I set some self-boundaries with my sponsor... that I wouldn't allow myself to be disrespected and that I would call her anytime I feel my serenity taken, just for the sake of REACHING OUT and getting outside of the crazy! 

I thought my serenity hadn't been taken very much (at least, not enough to warrant reaching out) because I've worked recovery so long that there's naturally an added measure of serenity ALREADY HERE.  And you know what?  That's true.  But Satan took that truth and spoke it quietly, giving me opposition in the form of reality:

You don't need to reach out because you already know what to do.

And while I pondered on that thought -that I already knew what I needed and didn't need to bug anyone else -slowly the chains of self-doubt grew around me. Pride wrapped them quietly and surely around my very busy body.  My anxiety worsened, my health worsened!

It's hard on my pride, my ego, that I don't know things... that I don't know MORE.  It's REALLY hard.  It was hard to hear someone believe that I was in the beginning stages of recovery when in reality I'd been working solid recovery for over 5 years!  It's hard to have to say the words, "I can learn to do that again."
My pride HATES it!
But I'm beginning to accept that recovery, for me, is simply a series of beginnings... and when I veer from that place of new beginnings, I'm on The Pride Road.

Why?
Why has God marked this path out for me?
I don't know.  I wish He'd marked a path full of wisdom and knowledge that I can charitably give to the universe, but He didn't.  My path is a path of mystery, of journeys waiting for embark! discovery! for the countless "first steps!"

It's beautiful in it's own right, and when my pride takes a back seat, I can really, truly appreciate it and feel deep and abiding gratitude for it.

Today I'm learning how to recognize when a situation is not safe for me again.
I'm learning that suffering is a beautiful, sacred gift reserved for the best-loved (hint: us all).
I'm learning that I don't know anything except that I want to live small in the world and large in the camp God has within my soul.

Speak your words and I will hold them.
Reveal your weariness and I will see it.
Present your pain, and I will validate it.
Show me your path, and I will respect it.
You are God's.
God is within you.
This humbles me and empowers me because
It means I am God's.
God is within me.
Divinity is The Great Equalizer.

Here's to Step 10 (Accountability) and to roots and beginning... and here's to God, my master, my keeper, my most intimate connection to a home beyond the ditch bank lined with rouge Chinese Elms.
 0926150857

Monday, September 28, 2015

Pain Shame and Rug Sweeping

A few days ago, I came across a post on facebook that was being shared like wildfire among mothers -particularly young mothers.  A sweet sister had lost her baby just before delivery.  She wrote out her pain on social media which I'm not against, but I began to feel my own pain when she asked the readers who were complaining about being up with their own baby at night to remember: she had no baby.
I watched in sadness as my fellow sisters shared, shared, shared the article and shamed themselves.

"Such a good reminder to me to quit complaining."
"I needed this.  I'm such a whiner, and I need to shut up and be grateful."

My heart began to burn and I closed out of facebook -my serenity vanished and my heart swelled and ached in that uncomfortable, unmanageable way.
I'm all for gratitude in trials, I am.  I AM.
I am NOT for using gratitude to sweep pain under the rug.  Pain does not belong under the rug, especially when the hands holding the broom are coated in shame.

"I need to shut up and be grateful," sweep, sweep, sweep.

Using gratitude to shove pain in places where I can't see it for awhile or feel it for awhile is simply my way of trying to deal with my own pain... the VERY pain that Christ died for.  Sometimes I feel like He shouldn't HAVE to take it because it is so very "small" compared to other pain, but Christ doesn't care about the size of pain.  He suffered for IT ALL.
And for what it's worth, in this particular case, the pain of being up with a child at night while I'm sleep deprived, post-partum, nervous, confused, and trying to see straight through a blur of hormones that haven't balanced and sit on a bottom that does NOT want to be sat upon... IS INCREDIBLY HARD.  Not small pain by any means!

So many of my sweet friends who are battling post-partum depression, sleep deprivation, exhaustion, depletion, and anxiety were in tears over their own lack of gratitude when they read her post, and I wanted to hold them tight and say, "Give me the broom."
Because I know.  I KNOW that their own individual pain will come out from under the rug very soon and it will be bigger, more angry and probably out for revenge.

And the beautiful part about pain is what a wonderful, necessary gift it is.
Pain is the opportunity to turn fully to Christ, to have a conversation with Him about how it feels because HE HAS FELT IT.  He is the ONLY Man to know the pain of birth, hormones, sensitive emotions... He knows!
I've had so many frustrating conversations with caring folks who just don't GET IT -they WANT TO, but they don't understand what it's like to live in a marriage like mine.  But you know what?  GOD DOES, and when I take to Him honestly and say, "THIS HURTS!"  I don't feel God telling me to sweep anything.
I reverence gratitude in it's pure form, but I do not reverence gratitude in it's piggy-backing shame form.  I can't.
God doesn't want us to shut up and be grateful when we're up at night with a baby who won't sleep because someone else CAN'T be up with a baby they lost.  He suffered BOTH pains, and He desires BOTH PAINS.
Not just the "bigger" pain.

My trial isn't the kind I can take to social media and say, "Please remember when you're celebrating an anniversary that my anniversaries have been painful."
Does that make seeing posts with couples appearing happy hard for me?  YES.  But that is MY PAIN, and I WANT IT.  It's part of my journey and process.  I don't want others to stop posting their happiness.  Even when it hurts, even when I THINK I want them to be miserable with me, I don't.  Not really.
What I really want is to turn to God and say, "OUCH."
I have asked Him why.  I have asked Him if I'm not worthy of an easier marriage.  I've hashed out all there is to hash for now -and I'm sure I'll find more to hash today and tomorrow!
I've tried to sweep my pain under the rug.  I've tried to numb it out with food and business.

But the only truly healing thing I've done is taken it to God when I've been ready.  Sometimes I feel a release from the pain, sometimes I feel God nudge me toward work that still needs done.
Pain is a gift -a bridge in my relationship to God, and a teacher!  It isn't the nice, sunny, posh sort of teacher who speaks softly and has twinkly eyes... but I'll be danged it if isn't one of the most effective teachers I've ever had.

So many sweet women I've met have held back from living genuinely for fear of hurting others, and I must say: you are robbing the world.
Satan's trademark is taking truth and warping it -here a little, there a little.  I see him taking on the compassion that so effortlessly becomes women and using it for his gain.  He takes our desire to not hurt those around us who are struggling and morphs it into self-censorship of the vulgarest kind.  We are censoring our authenticity -we are hiding our lights under a bushel.
I don't believe for ONE SECOND that we are naturally out to hurt or cause harm.  Does it happen?  Yes.  But that is part of the plan, the path, and the test.   

But to try and manage another's pain? Can this REALLY be done while being true to ourselves?  No, it cannot.  Because their pain is not ours to manage.  Our OWN pain is barely ours to manage.

The world needs your authenticity.  They need to hear about how hard your children can be sometimes, even if it pains those who can't have children or who have lost children.  They need to know that your house is dirty -even though there are those who can't afford a house or who have been turned out.  I can't go around censoring myself under the guise of compassion because all I'm really doing is trying to manage the pain swirling around me.  But I can't, and I don't.  Because it negates Christ's sacrifice.

I have personally sat with a family member who has suffered a loss of a 9-month old baby, the loss of a late-term miscarriage at 20 weeks, several early miscarriages and 7 years of infertility... who told me how HARD it was to have kids who didn't sleep and who poured syrup on the floor and then PEED ALL OVER IT.

Her pain needed validation, all of her pain needed validation.

I don't want to invalidate the pain of the sweet sister who lost her baby -that is unimaginable.  I simply want to extend an invitation to the sweet sisters who immediately and so easily set themselves to shame and self-blame because of it.

I messaged a good friend about this, wondering why it was touching me so deeply, and she talked about the problem of "Pain Shame" we have, especially among women.
Yes!
PAIN SHAME.
We feel shame because our pain is "less than" the seen pain of someone online -someone with cancer or loss.

God doesn't see our pain as "less than" and I don't believe He sees our pain on individual little strips of paper.  I don't believe He suffered for "sleep deprivation" and checked it off the list.
I believe He suffered for the deep pain I would feel attending church alone with two small children, little sleep, overcome with anxiety over my husband's addiction and lack of recovery -God suffered for my BIG PICTURE.

There is room under the rug for pain.  It's true.  And it's as good a place as any to put pain until we're ready to hand it over.
I just want to share my love, ladies, and say: your pain is worthy of God's suffering, no matter if you feel it isn't.

The pain I feel watching my dear friends so easily set to hating themselves for pain that needs validation instead is ALSO something God suffered for, and I've talked with Him about it!

Live genuinely today, feel your individual pain without holding it up against the pain of the girl next door.  Practice gratitude for what is in front of you right now and leave shame out of the picture.

Christ died for you.
We all have a measure of divinity within us -it is our equalizer.  I am JUST as much a daughter of God as every other girl on earth, and God suffered equally for us all.
I see now -I SEE -that His precious, sacred suffering for me was going, frankly, in vain.  I was semi-pro with my shame hands and my rug-sweeping.  Learning to put my own superficial management tools aside and take up God's atonement is hard work, but it is the best work.

Pain has gotten me there.

And for this, I reverence my own individual pain.  Today I will honor it, lean into it and learn what I need to learn from it.  I will take it to God, and we will discuss it together.

Pain is the pathway to progress.

Thursday, September 3, 2015

Progressive Miracle

We are going to San Francisco this weekend.  In less than 24 hours, Danny and I will be alone in a strange city together.

Tomorrow is our anniversary.  Eleven years of marriage.
Eleven.
Eleven years really isn't THAT long, and yet -it's long enough to have three kids and almost lose each other.

Something hit me about a week ago -a hunger? a crazy urge?  I don't know.  All I know is that we booked some last-minute tickets, and The Word of the Week has been
MIRACLE
For the last few years, I haven't worn a wedding ring.  I haven't been willing to DATE let alone go away for the weekend like we usually do for our anniversaries. 

I've had people tell me I'm crazy to stay.  I've had an inner voice tell me I'm crazy to stay.
Danny has had people tell him I'M crazy and he's crazy to try and stick it out with me.

Our critics have fallen into two categories:
1) Porn is normal, so come off it already
2) Porn is abominable, so leave already

It certainly doesn't make sense to people on the outside, and it doesn't have to.  At the end of the day when we're with each other checking in and talking about things that would boggle the minds of people who think we're nuts... we feel at peace, we feel at home.

A few weeks ago, I caught Danny's eye as we were watching youtube videos as a family.  I held his gaze, I held his hand, and the wordless connection was powerful -so powerful our eyes welled up.
We said "I love you."
But we didn't need to say it.

I've longed for a connection like that for YEARS.  I don't expect it to be maintained constantly, but to know it's there, to know I have access to it, means the world to me.

Danny's been gone all week... he's training in Ohio, and I'm at home dealing with this ridiculous chronic illness, three kids, three dogs, and three cats, and one overflowing toilet.
Somehow we are all fed and thriving.  Another miracle.

As he's been gone, I've felt some very old fears rise up within me.  For so long, I didn't care what he did while he was away, but lately my heart has opened back up.  I've learned that it's safe to begin to re-attach to Danny, and that is TERRIFYING because my muscle and brain memory tells me, "Loving means hurting."
That is TRUE.
But I'm learning that it isn't the end -that hurt can be a catalyst for growth, a chance for rigorous honesty as I express my feelings and needs, the gateway to an intimate experience with God.  Pain is information to me.

Danny has proven to me through time that he's HERE, even if he doesn't understand fully what I'm going through, he's going to sit with me anyway.

And so I'm re-attaching.
Does that make me crazy? 
It doesn't FEEL crazy, even if it looks crazy... and I know Danny will say the same thing.

This weekend signifies something huge. 

It's showing us that we've made strides.
It's letting us know that we're brave enough to spend money on ourselves.
It's come naturally, unforced and definitely unplanned (what the heck do I even pack?!).

And as I've mulled over what this trip means about where we are in our relationship and in healing our relationship, I keep stumbling on immersive gratitude and the realization that recovery has brought about miracles in our marriage and lives.

I'll meet Danny as he lands in Phoenix from Ohio and before he can even set foot into the hot AZ sun, we will be on our way to Cali.
Alone.

Does this mean we've "made it?" That our marriage is in the clear?  That it's time to "move on" and get passed this seemingly never-ending trial?

No, it doesn't mean any of those things.

Danny and I will never reach the "MADE IT" point, either together or individually.  The more recovery work we do, the more we find TO DO, and it is the most rewarding, harrowing work we've ever done or ever will do!
Our marriage will never be in the clear. But what does that matter, if our faith lies in God and not in each other?  It's a harsh, harsh thing to accept.  It seems unfair and even unhealthy to some, but trusting in GOD and putting my faith, loyalty and love in HIM has proven to be the singularly most freeing act I've ever embarked on.
We will never move on from this trial, and I prefer it that way.  I prefer a marriage where we acknowledge frailty, where we check in and focus on connection, where we hone in on God. I prefer a home of healing.

To the outside world, it's just a weekend getaway for our anniversary.  It's as simple as that.
But to my world, and the world here in this little blog... it's a miracle, absolute, utter and completely.

Our critics have become a distant fog for us, and we're reaching forward and biting into this delicious, golden fruit called connection that has touched every facet of our lives.

And it means that I have more to surrender when he leaves on a business trip and stays alone in a hotel for a week.
It means risking being hurt more and again.  It means more open hearts, more open arms, and more joy as well.

It feels right.
Today, it feels right.

Maybe I'll sing a different tune when I'm triggered in California, but I'll worry about that Golden Gate Bridge when I get there.  Right now, I'm just going to hug the miracle.

And seriously, I need to pack.





 



Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Connection Waves

As I've studied and worked on healing from addiction, I've come to see parts of marriage that I didn't even know were there.
I watched a TED talk today -one I've seen a few times -by Amy Cuddy all about Body Language (recommended to me by Scabs).

Sister Cuddy mentions an experiment in which subjects were asked to participate in an interview where the interviewer was basically expressionless. She says:
 ...they go through a very stressful job interview. It's five minutes long. They are being recorded. They're being judged also, and the judges are trained to give no nonverbal feedback, so they look like this [still face]. Imagine this is the person interviewing you. So for five minutes, nothing, and this is worse than being heckled. People hate this. It's what Marianne LaFrance calls "standing in social quicksand."

It so telling that we would rather have a negative connection than NO connection, but really?  Connection is so very vital, something we crave because we NEED it -like air, food, water.

Danny and I are starting to get these glamorous, indulgent tastes of true, positive connection.  It makes the relationship we had 7 years ago seem surface... not always bad, but definitely surface.  It was the copper medal, and now we're touching gold.
Touching.
We spend about 30% of our time together touching gold.
35% falling away from the gold.
35% crawling back toward it.
_______________________________________________
100% of our marriage deals with connection (lack of, leaning toward, enjoying...)

I'm trying to learn how to be patient when Danny is stressed about something out of his control.  My body -my smart, smart body -has retained a fancy sort of muscle memory where whenever Danny is stressed, I start protecting myself because I believe scary things inevitably follow.
This doesn't mean that Danny always acted out, but it does mean that his addict-related behaviors dominated the day, and those are very scary to me... mostly because I lose him in those moments (sometimes because I leave -figurative or literally, and sometimes because he does -figuratively, usually).
Losing Danny terrifies me.  I love Danny.

Because I haven't been feeling well these days, I've spent a lot (A LOT) of time trying to reconcile my body to it's tenant: my spirit.
As I navigate the messages they're trying to send each other, as I dance the dance of moderation, listening, control, surrender...
I find that I spend
30% of my time in a healthy place
35% of my time falling out of a healthy place
35% of my time working my way BACK to a healthy place
__________________________________________________
100% of the relationship between my body and spirit deals with CONNECTION.

The relationship they have is JUST like a marriage.  It's an intimate connection that takes work, dedication, loyalty, love, faith!
I find that my spirit left the presence of The Father to cleave to it's earthly body.

In my marriage, Danny and I both are trying -daily, and it is NOT always easy! -to keep God in the center of ourselves (first!) and our homes.
Inside of me, I am trying to keep my Spirit moving toward God and my Body moving toward God, hoping they will TOUCH GOLD.

And they do.  They do touch gold 30% of the time.
I can imagine what it would feel like if I weren't so sick these days.

Connection is key.  My body is speaking to me, and I'm learning to be patient as it works through the STUFF it's been holding for years.

As I lean into yoga poses, I feel FEAR in my body.  It is terrified to simply OPEN UP because it knows, it KNOWS about pain and how pain comes after opening up.

My yoga instructor said on Monday morning, "Try to take this stretch somewhere you've never taken it.  Maybe you're going to put more space between your head and chest.  Maybe you'll be able to take the stretch deeper.  Maybe you'll be able to feel a muscle in a way you haven't before.  I know you've done this stretch a hundred times... so let's do it differently.  We don't want to be the same as we were yesterday."
Everything Taura says sounds so deep when I'm on a mat in her Mom's backyard.

With that in mind, I adopted a new mantra to add to my list of Adopted Mantras:

Every Day a Difference

Today will be different from the day before.  I'll try something new, take in something new, learn something new!  I'll make someone else's day different.  I won't go to sleep at night knowing that I'm waking up the same as I woke up the day before.  My expectations for this mantra are enthusiastically low, but enthusiastic nonetheless.

So I'm charging out into the world toward DIFFERENCE.
Sometimes it means adding.  Sometimes it means taking away.
Mostly it means that I keep riding those percentages waves in the right direction -RIDING, mind you, not stagnating on the wave only to be squelched by the quenching water.

It's simply finding a way to progress while being patient and accepting of where I am in life: whether I'm in a GOLD day or not.

Will I ever reach a place where everyday will be gold?  Perhaps The Land of Gold lies only in those with silver hair?  I don't know.  I don't know the answer.
But what I do know is that it's okay that I don't know.  It's okay that I'm riding some waves because the waves are all CONNECTION based, and THAT... that is one sweet wave to ride, even if you're coming down.

PS: if you want to be different than you were yesterday, watch the TED talk above.  Seriously.

Friday, August 21, 2015

Up To

Sometimes I feel defeated.  It's not hard because I have a toddler.

Yesterday that defeated feeling began to turn to shame, and I took a time out.  I put the kids in front of dinner which was in front of a movie, and I took the dogs for a walk and then pulled weeds in the garden.  I hadn't done much movement yesterday, so I wanted to let my body MOVE.

It got me thinking less about what I'm NOT doing and more about what I AM doing.




I'm doing a lot of listening...
listening to my body, listening to music, listening to my Soul Needs.

...You've got so much soul...

Monday, August 17, 2015

Amending

This morning as I was exhaling to let my body go into a difficult (for me) yoga pose, the instructor said, "I find that I often treat others the way I treat myself."

Ah.
She means REALLY, not SURFACELY (the operative hidden word there being FACE).  Because there have been many moments where I haven't been genuine to someone's face... given service while judging, that kind of thing.
During those times, I am more prone to judging myself.

As I've written out my amends and God has made it very clear that I and my body need to be at the tip top of that list, it's been incredible to watch the direction He's taking me.  As I love myself truly and take care of myself carefully, I am more open to loving OTHERS truly and taking care of them CAREFULLY, MINDFULLY and from a healthy place.

My 30th birthday was yesterday, and I used it as an opportunity to make amends to myself.  I bought a new pair of tennis shoes. I bought a pair of pants that fit RIGHT and that are new (as opposed to my usual purchase from a thrift store that fit "pretty good").  I bought some new underwear and a tube of the GOOD foundation I normally pass up because it costs too much and buy toxic foundation instead (cheaper!)  I stepped into a salon for the first time in two years.
 haircollage
I went for a walk, did some yoga.  I let myself know that I HAVE WORTH.  The money I spent will come back into my life -it's okay.  No one is going without for Mom to have shoes that aren't ripped.

My entire paycheck (granted, my paychecks are cute and tiny) went to amends, and a large portion of my next one will as well.
While Danny and I grocery shopped, I put in more greenery.  God has made it crystal clear that Alicia's body needs stuff from the dirt.

A few years ago, I had originally planned to spend my 30th in a salon all day -a ONE TIME BIG EVENT where I got a massage, a mani/pedi, a facial, a cut/color/style, brow wax, make-up... then I wanted to buy a new outfit and head out for a dinner date.
But you know what matters to me now?
NOT a once time big event, but a true, deep shift in beliefs and perspective.

So my bed has stayed made.
My room has stayed clean and peaceful.
I've purchased beautiful songs on iTunes that continue to feed and enrich my worth.
I eat better.
I move more.
I have spent time each day with my bare feet on God's earth, soaking up the purity of His lovely creation.

I talk with God, and I ask Him if the key to His Omniscience is simplicity?  He doesn't answer.  He wants me to search more.

This shift and change has been gradual, and it has STUCK.  I know it's time for these amends -they are not a one-time event that will repeat in 10 years when I realize my shoes are taking in water and the elastic on my clothing is shot.
It's just a tube on foundation.
It's just a pair of jeans that like my body.
It's just a bra.

But oh my gosh -the messages those send are priceless.

It's crazy to see how important balance is -how I could take buying things to an extreme, but how I need to smartly care properly for myself as well.

God is guiding these amends.  It's not enough to SAY "I'm sorry" to myself.  I need to change behaviors, and I find that I can not do it alone.
But He leads, He guides, He walks beside.

I have a stout pile of crap -old make-up, towels, shoes... that I'm ready to burn.  It's time to send big messages back to myself, it's time to get rid of inner chaos and ask God to replace it with clarity.
If I can see myself from a third-person perspective, if I can see and believe in my worth, light, identity, and divinity then my good choices become simple.

In turn, and in God's beautiful way, I turn that Seeing Eye onto others.

The Next Thirty Years will have their storms, and God and I are building a shelter within my being.
It is sacred ground -holy, holy, holy.

One good choice at a time, line upon line, day upon day, we are building a liberating shelter.

And it's hard to dance with a devil on your back 
So shake him off, oh woah 
 I am done with my graceless heart 
So tonight I'm gonna cut it out and then restart 

Thursday, August 13, 2015

Return to Sanity

In our online group meeting this week, we read Step 2.  One of the questions that follows reads:

What does it mean to be restored to sanity?

The opposite of sanity is, in my own world, the place I go to where every other thought is the thought every spouse of an addict is familiar with:

Am I crazy?

In that place, I am blocked.  I can not hear my own gut -my put-there-by-God-and-filled-with-His-truth-and-light Intelligence -and everything begins to blur and swirl.  I short, everything feels like the way life looks when I take my contacts out and lose all sense of sight (except colors!) and depth perception.
Without the aid and help of lenses, I am legally blind my friends.

I went there this last week.  In that place, I was triggered more frequently and powerfully.  I was emotionally edgy, physically tense.  It occurred to me at one point that this state used to be my NORMALCY.
And I felt a little hope in that -as if what used to be my Standard Mode of Operations was now a sort of Lights Flashing, Sirens Blaring State of Emergency.

That's a sign of healing, right?

I know I'm in that painful place when I can not hear what I need.  I'm indecisive, scared, and anxious.

I recently finished reading a James Allen book, and I found therein a gem that has become a sort of imagery mantra for me (is that a thing?  Imagery mantra?... Something I picture in my mind when I feel like I'm crazy?)
 A return to sanity is, for me, being able to hear myself.

 It's finding and tapping into that depth Allen speaks of -it's a vibrant canyon for me, filled with everything God created to give me... in his own words from D&C 59:
18)Yea, all things which come of the earth, in the season thereof, are made for the benefit and the use of man, both to please the eye and to gladden the heart;
19) Yea, for food and for raiment, for taste and for smell, to strengthen the body and to enliven the soul.

Walking in that canyon at peace with God, climbing and hiking the up and the downs while the world above whirls with drama, intrigue, and dark storms of every kind.

It's my figurative happy place.  I can tap into it now and then, and I hope to someday set up camp there.

I hope to live within it eventually, as Frankl once found freedom from outer bondage within.  This life feels so binding, doesn't it?
I feel so limited in what I can do with the little knowledge I have... I feel the world beyond is filled with rich treasures of knowledge and wisdom.  This life is a life of bondage where we are called on to tap into the freedom that abides in the one place that carries heaven with it: our intelligence within.

It is our safe haven, and it can not be taken from us from any outward perpetrator unless we grant access.

Or unless we've been blessed with PTSD (or other mental illnesses) in which case, we've become victims of thievery of the absolute worst kind: Thievery of our inner selves.

The good news is we can reclaimed or be reclaimed through God.
And THAT, to me, is what a return to sanity to looks like... it's the return of what's been taken -my peace, my serenity, my voice, my worth, my ability to see myself and hear myself and honor that which manifests itself within.
I bring that manifestation going on within... WITH-OUT and THAT.  THAT is my return to sanity.

I speak up for my safety, set a boundary, remind myself that I am worthy of other people's time (a nod here to a great friend who spoke this truth to me and changed my perspective -you know who you are!) and SO REACH OUT.  I pray before, during and after.  I take any glimmer of voice coming from within and obey what it tells me: a walk, a yoga session, a few more hours without my contacts in, moving a picture in the house, taking off the pants that don't fit right, eating something that came from God's Good Earth (My Playground), taking time to put my bare feet in the grass, taking time to rehearse an affirmation:
I am confident.
I walk with my back straight.
I look others in the eye.
I am enough.
I have nothing to hide.
I do not fear my story being uncovered.
I walk with God.
I am light.
I am joy.
I am truth unfurled.

Without God, this is not possible, for it IS God who speaks to me from within.

God is my sanity, and I am his treasure.



Sunday, August 9, 2015

Fields of Toil

So often trials are compared to storms -dark clouds, rain, torrent... then comes the rainbow, then comes the rest.

Sometimes He lets it rain.
Dark clouds.
Sometimes He lets the storm rage and calms His child.

A few days ago, I sat on the shores of a lake in Arizona.  I was up in the pines, camping with my family.  We were squeezing out every last drop of summer.  Danny was fishing with the kids, and I'd just finished skipping rocks. I didn't buy a fishing license because
1) It saved us some money
2) I don't know how to fish
3) I have notebooks that love being written in on the shores of lakes in the pines

My toddler and I stuck together because she didn't care about fishing either.  She climbed up rocks, throwing her hands in the air.
"Queen of the world!"
I beat my record in rock skipping: FIVE.  And for the fiftieth time that trip, God sent me a Valentine to let me know He sees and cares.
A Valentine skipping stone:
I tucked it in my purse.
My inflammation worsened -it had been flaring up, maybe because I was constantly on the move?  So I sat down next to my daughter and we threw big rocks into the water -squealing with every *SPLASH*
The water felt so good on our hot faces.
She put her feet in the lapping water and spoke to it, "Be nice, water.  Be nice to Alice."

I sat down in our red camping chair, hunkering down so the sun couldn't find me. It wasn't easy -the Arizona sun has a way of finding EV.ER.EE.THING.  Even the lakes around us were evaporating at a weirdly alarming rate, making fishing a pretty dumb idea.

I watched my daughter build a castle out of rocks and sighed in relief as the sun fell behind the ONE cloud in the sky.  My mind went back years -twenty, fifteen...

My Dad owns a farm and a small herd of cattle.  He was the living mash-up of the Oklahoma! hit, "The Farmer and The Cowman."
Oh, the Farmer and the cowman should be friends...
My Dad WAS a farmer AND a cowman.  This meant he grew his own hay which worked out well because he had 6 kids to help him grow, cut, turn, bale and pick up the hay.  After my brothers left home, he BOUGHT A MACHINE that picked up hay.  It was a betraying day for me... picking up hay was the hardest, most grueling part of the hay business and ALL THIS TIME THERE WAS A MACHINE THAT DID IT?!
But I digress.

Those hot Arizona summers picking up hay are scorched into my brain.  Some days I'd ride in the truck with Dad and watch in wonder as the boys in town would help my brothers pick up bale after bale.  Sweat would run down everyone's faces.  Their arms were sun burned and scratched... they could wear long sleeves but the length was torture... worse than scratched arms.
The hay was carefully stacked, row by row.  A special pattern had to be made to keep the hay from falling over, so one boy would stack and the others would pitch the bales onto the trailer.  The tractor or truck would pull the trailer along at a snail's pace.
I think they have a thing called Cross Fit now that gives men the bodies I saw my brothers build throwing alfalfa bales around.
When we picked up oat bales, I could help.  I couldn't pitch them to the top of the stack, but my patient older brother would help me nudge them onto the lowest part of the trailer.  As I got older -12 or so, I graduated to Driver.
I was complete bunk at it.
I was so nervous trying to do it PERFECTLY because the thought of messing up in front of the boys my Dad had hired was just unfathomable.
My first real-life crush was formed out on those fields.

I can still feel that hot sun, the sweat, the parched summer days...
As I sat on the shore and watched my daughter talk to her castle, I felt the metaphor for trials shift in me.
When trials rage in my life, it feels less like a storm and more like a hot summer day.  I'm racing against the tractor to get the bales pitched onto the trailer.  I'm the driver, the stacker, the pitcher... the sun is blazing, and sweat is rolling down my neck... my body is coated in my own perspiration.  With every bale I pluck up, one more is set down on the unending field of toil and sweat.
And THAT.
That is what it feels like.
No clouds, no drops of rain, no torrential storm to send me into respite.  Just sun.

We are taught that Christ is in the Sun (just read it in my scriptures, though I can't remember the reference!), and this is true for me... when I'm on that figurative field with those figurative heavy, rough bales, I am closer and nearer to God than ever.
It is HARD and it is TRYING and I want to give up and spit and lie down and I WANT TO STOP, but trials aren't like that.  Even when I physically lie down in the midst of a trial, there's still a blazing heat going on inside, ripping me apart.
The sun is a healing energy that also burns -it's made of FIRE.

My baptisms by fire has come through Christ and at NO POINT was it easy.

Coming home from those fields was the best -dunking myself into bath water, filling my body with water, eating a good meal, and sitting down.  You can't beat that feeling.  It measured up to the feeling you get after spending a day branding cattle and coming home to wash the stench of burning hide and human sweat off.
Nothing in this world has come closer to me than the way repentance feels than a long shower after a full day pitching hay or branding cattle.  Even rounding them up is less intense.

So it is with trials -after the work, the sweat, and the seemingly unending output on my part -there is living water to be had in abundance.  It's there all along, but after the trial it seems more precious.

God is in the sun and the water.  He's the most miraculous gift -the most present, the most mysterious, the most attractive.
And so we find that another sort of romance is flourishing on my Fields of Toil... I desire God, and unlike the hired hand I longingly stared at through my coke-bottle glasses, God actually knows I'm there and what's more?  DESIRES ME with a passion far deeper than any I've cooked up.

Because He desires me, He gives me Fields of Toil.
And that's where the metaphor shift is vital for me... I see the point of pain, I see a purpose -a loving purpose in pain.  Pain becomes necessary -thereby making it endurable.
My pleas to end it all, my declarations of self-weakness dissipate and I stand under the hot sun, knowing now, as I didn't five years ago, there's something great at the end of the field.

Knowledge, compassion, growth, clarity.

God has led me in the path of healing these days -physically healing.  He's led me to resources that will aid in boosting the negative ions in my life.
Negative ions are found in waterfalls and mountains, in nature -they energize and build us up.
Positive ions are found in electronics and man-made structures -they drain us.

There must be a balance.
And as I think of the rain falling, I see a gift from God, for especially in lightening there is a SURGE of negative ions, and we are uplifted thereby.

The world is my university -the sun my teacher, the rain my gift, the earth my healer.
And God is in them all.
And God is in me.




Saturday, August 8, 2015

Itchy Inside

I've been working my dailies daily... just like their little name implies.  I've been doing the hard ones and the good ones and the soothing ones.
Pray -connect with God.
Read scriptures
Connect with self -yoga, journal, take a meaningful walk fraught with introspection
Eat a healthy breakfast
Stay off social media from 5pm -10pm

It's been good, it's been good FOR me. 

But these last few days, I've been crawling inside of my skin.  I've been rearranging everything and snapping at people who don't need snapping at (who DOES, actually?)...

My chi -which I've recently discovered is A REAL THING -is OFF 100%.  Where my gut usually directs my decorating and my decisions, I'm fuzzy.

Today after spending hours redecorating my kitchen -one of my favorite rooms in my little trailer -I just HATED it.  Every jot and tittle.
And guess what?  KITCHENS DON'T MATTER.  In the great scheme of eternity and THE BIG PICTURE, my kitchen is not important.
So WHY?  Why am I wringing my hands and fussing over something I usually can decorate in a flash the way I like it?

It hit me in the middle of a pile of lace and hammer and nails: I haven't written.

In all of my dailies, I haven't let my fingers feel the click-clack they hunger for, beg for!  I haven't taken time out of a rainy afternoon to let words flow.  I've journaled with my pen, but for me -I don't care what the experts say -I NEED THIS KEYBOARD.

And as that realization hit, my soul was wracked with pain and sorrow and every other diva emotion a girl can be DROWNED with because my computer is BROKEN and we can't buy a new one because my body is BROKEN, so our money is going to medical bills.
All of the money.
Except the little we are setting aside to throw a fiesta for my 30th next weekend.

I will have a new computer soon, but I don't have one now and my Step 4 was VERY clear about my patience.
*ahem* my LACK of patience.

And then, like magic, like the magic beans that Jack's mother threw down in frustration... my computer which was on but refusing to give me anything but a BLACK STARE booted up.
Apparently, my husband has a little trick that sometimes works and sometimes doesn't and today it did because

Jesus loves me.
And Danny is sick of me itching on the inside and rearranging the house.

Now if you'll excuse me, I've got more typing to do on my other blog.  I've also got to move 2,000 (not exagerrating) pictures from my phone to my dying computer.

I've ALSO got to tear everything off of the walls in my kitchen.
Because my CHI IS NOT AT EASE.

Hopefully after I've typed and gotten stories out and my skin quits crawling inside of me, I'll stop caring about the kitchen walls.

Self-care is of the utmost, and here's my reminder to me:

DO THE RIGHT KIND, Alicia.
And make sure that the next 25 paychecks go directly into savings for a new computer.

"A life with death inside and chi-wrecking walls outside is no life at all." ~Alicia Deets

It's too yellow!
Too old lady!
Not enough eclectic, like I had mapped out in my mind!

Maybe after I'm done writing, I'll embrace the COTTAGEness of it and have a hot cup of tea while I work on things that actually matter like love and family and the state of the union.
Maybe.

Sunday, July 19, 2015

Building Towers

I don't remember Heaven, not really... but it seems that part of me -perhaps a bigger part of me than I can grasp -suffers from severe homesickness. It's an ironic sort of homesickness -the more I feed it, the more it grows.  And I realize that it isn't actually a sickness at all but a HEALER in every way.

When I first sat down and really talked with Danny, it felt as if something deep within me was all at once excited and rested to be... could it be?... reunited.  I didn't know Danny.  I had never met him.  It was simultaneously the weirdest and most natural feeling in the world.

The part of my brain that's forgotten Heaven was confused and scared.  The part of my brain (? soul?) that remembers Heaven sort of exhaled, as if it had been anticipating my meeting Danny for years.  His voice was strange and familiar.  His hands were new and also home.  His hug was the hug of a newly-found friend and also the hug of someone I'd sung, "God Be With You 'Til We Meet Again" to.
It felt good.
It felt scary.
It felt natural.
It made no sense and complete sense all at once.

A piece of homesickness was given remedy that day.  It was proof of Home.  I'd felt for some time that there was a Home for me out there.  Meeting and marrying Danny was a piece of my Home Puzzle... but there's SO MUCH MORE.  I can feel it.

There's a part of me that hungers -ever hungers -for something MORE.  I don't mean materially, don't mistake me.  I mean -emotionally?  Is it emotion?  Or is there something out there that is MORE, even, than emotion?
I've always had this hunger.
I've always been a deep-feeling, passionate person, and as such I've always felt a constant dissatisfaction with the world at hand.
That's not to say that I've dismissed joyful moments or failed to live and bask in the present -though at times, many times, I have.  I'm only trying to say that I've got a hole in my heart.
I've heard some in the SA world refer to it as a "God Hole" and while I believe that, I still feel like my hole is more aptly titled, "The Home Hole."
I am not at home, no matter where I go.  I used to pity Christ when He spoke of having no place to lay his head, but pity isn't what Christ sought at all... Christ simply spoke truth of how He felt about Earth.  It wasn't His home, and He wasn't at home in it at all.  Earth was where He went for a mission.

I've sought to fill my Home Hole in so many ways -SO many.  I've sought out intense emotions, trying desperately to reach a level of unearthly emotion, trying to feel ANYTHING strongly, powerfully.
I've sought for years for more and more proof of home, and in so doing I've developed My Vices.
My Vices, unlike my Home Sickness, are ACTUALLY sicknesses who also grow abominably the more they are fed.  They bring no healing.  They are malignant.

The more I shop, the more I eat, the more I tear down others, the more movies I watch, the more I dive into the Earth and try and make it my home... the larger grows my Home Hole.

I think of the descendents of Noah, building a tower toward Heaven.  So often I was taught that the Tower of Babel was a symbol of wickedness.  But yesterday as I looked up in the darkness at the ceiling over my bed, I thought about those inherently GOOD people building what they felt was a needed and necessary building.



They sought to muscle their way back home. This I understand!
They gathered up their friends -they all spoke the same language and they all had the same hole in their heart, and they built a tower to home!  To Heaven!  But they forgot -again, let's hold hands with irony -about God. They formed and fed vices with their tower. Their tower became their house of worship, but they had replaced God with their own selves and in so doing had built up A House of Vices.
But God didn't forget about them, just as He's never forgotten about Alicia.
God took from them their unity of voice which they were using for desecration, and He cursed them with the inability to understand one another, thereby saving them.

My Vices look like theirs, though their story is ancient and mine is circa 2010.  My search for home often (or eventually) lacked a God-center and by default was mortal-centered.

So often I've reached for food, for money, for beauty and validation -so that I might reach Heaven in some way.  I didn't understand Heaven, really, and that's why I did it.  My innate was crying out for home and I sought out home as best I could with where I was and what knowledge I had.
And God, in His familiar mercy, is saving me.  Though my saving doesn't involve a curse, it does involve a lot of pain... and therein I can empathize with the descendents of Noah.

Glennon Melton has said:
"People think of us addicts as insensitive liars but we don’t start out that way. We start out as extremely sensitive truth tellers."

I built my vices from a hungry place -I was starving for Home.  I sought it out in the wrong places, but I sought it out regardless.

I built my Babels and they all failed me.
I love C.S. Lewis's thoughts in The Screwtape Letters.  He speaks at this point as a Devil:
Prosperity knits a man to the World.  He feels that he is "finding his place in it," while really it is finding its place in him.  His increasing reputation, his widening circle of acquaintances, his sense of importance, the growing pressure of absorbing and agreeable work, build up in him a sense of being really at home in earth which is just what we want. ... The truth is that the Enemy, having oddly destined these mere animals to life in His own eternal world, has guarded them pretty effectively from the danger of feeling at home anywhere else. 

As I am facing my 30th birthday next month, I find that I'd much rather be 30 with the knowledge that has come with 30 than be 21, sitting in the dirt with my building blocks, trying to muscle my way back home.
It is a really yucky and hard place to be.

Ironically (yeah, we're still there), the most rested place I've ever been is completely racked with homesickness.

Give me not of this world, God, but offer up pieces of Home on Earth that I might make myself Fat upon my Longing for Home.
Give me a rose, a breeze, a baby's curl.  Give me a song filled with strains of Home, and a evening spent in the company of those who kept company with me at Home.
Give me meat and bread of body and soul.
Shower thy blessings upon me as I reach my hungry, childish arms up toward Thee.
I cry unto Thee for comfort, for love, for peace.

Give me no place on Earth to lay my head for therein lies risk of losing my peace-giving sense of Longing.

This is my Sabbath prayer and my Step 7.
Amen.



Monday, July 13, 2015

Curious Case of The Inferior Decorator

Last night, our family went looking for a video we'd taken a few years ago of my son singing a tune from, "Calamity Jane" -a musical starring Doris Day who is by all account much too adorable to be Calamity but also much too adorable to be criticized.  It took us awhile to find it because my picture and video files aren't organized -if you know me personally, you aren't shocked over this fact.  We rifled through the years, playing video after video.  I saw my kids grow from diapers to size 8 jeans before my eyes.

It was surreal watching little clips of our life back then.  What stood out -besides the obvious cuteness that is My Children -was the background.  My house.  I watched the decorations shifting and changing, the mess always constant. 
It looks nothing like my house now.  There's still a mess, but it sings a different tune now.
I listened to my voice behind the camera and I felt a gnawing ache in my belly -I ached because I KNEW what The Girl Holding the Camera was going through.  I could see the date each video was taken and I knew, roughly, what was going on around then. 
I remember the month after my rock bottom when God blessed me with three separate highly contagious illnesses that spread through my entire family and kept EVERYONE AWAY and ME AWAY FROM EVERYONE and I sang great and giant praises unto God for it.
I remember the months I spent in bed, trying my best to just GET UP.

And strangely, I remember trying to decorate my house but not really knowing what the heck to do.  I remember trying one thing and then another, never quite content.  I'd spend a day on a wall and walk away at the end of it exhausted and discontented, too tired to bother messing with it for months.  I'd stare at it and just feel... off.
I began to accept myself as an Inferior Decorator.
"It's just who I am," I shrugged myself into apathy.

But you know what?  It isn't who I am.  Am I a professional decorator?  Oh, gosh no.  But guess what I'm not?  I'm not an inferior anything.
I looked at those shifting walls last night and I realized that I was witnessing what happens to a woman when she's completely out of touch with herself. I had neglected myself and been neglected by those who loved me.  I had sustained abuse and wasn't aware of it.
I only knew that my walls were off.  I didn't realize it was because I WAS OFF.
I was out of touch, and I had no idea how to hear myself, how to listen.

Today, I'm typing from the same computer I've typed from for years.  I think of the things these keys have held -the truths, the pains, the tears, the laughter.  I've bonded with this dying, geriatric lap top and I wonder if it sees what's happened.  I wonder if it sees what I see.
The day I opened it up for the first time, I was set on TELLING.  I was set on writing and telling and teaching others.
I love teaching.  It's one part of myself I've never truly lost, though for a time it went completely haywire.  I blogged daily about anything I felt worthwhile, which was truly, truly everything.  Everything, that is, except the truth.
I blogged about mediocre custard filling and posted rushed tutorials on how to make zipper flowers -something I was pretty bunk at, but felt a nagging feeling to shout it from the rooftop anyway.
I poured the sparse amount of life-blood in me into showing others stuff.

I can see why.  I understand my hunger and need to be validated and seen.  I get that.  Given a rewind button, I'd probably do the same thing.  Maybe in a different way?  But knowing what I know about myself, I'm sure I'd run back to that numb, out-of-touch place.

I can't tell you how many times I literally fell asleep on my floor from exhaustion.  Dropped, plopped and woke up at 2 am, flat on my belly, carpet print on my cheek.
It felt absolutely natural to be THAT busy.

Since those videos were taken, things have changed.  They didn't change right away -I didn't even realize HOW MUCH had changed until last night.  What's more: they're still changing.
As I've worked -REALLY worked -recovery, I feel as if I've woken up.  Chancing blasphemy, I'd say that Jesus kissed Sleep Beauty and together, we're building a kingdom.

The glorious proof lies on my walls -I'm not discontented anymore.  I love my walls.  I can HEAR what I want, what I need, and what brings me joy.  I find myself throwing things away and making room for what really thrills me. 
On Saturday, I wore my glasses all day because -I SWARE -my eyes told me they were tired of having contacts forced on them.

As I began working recovery, I was still focused on helping and telling.  I walked into meetings wondering what I had to offer THEM.  I felt a responsibility to use my words to shift the direction of conversation (should it wander into no-no territory) and I would calculate WHAT to say and WHEN and HOW and I made sure I looked nice too.

Somewhere along the lines, Socrates bonked me on the head and I realized that
I
KNEW
NOTHING.

I'm not the first person he's rattled with this profound, life-breathing mantra.

As that truth sunk in (it took a long time), a new world began to unfold.  Suddenly, it wasn't about Alicia and what She had to offer the meetings, people, internet and nature... it was ABOUT the meetings, the people, and nature.
The Sleeping Beauty that awoke wasn't ME at all... not really in the sense I thought -it was my innate, my secret, silenced innate.
And as she awoke, she was STARVING.  She'd been starved for years, and she bloomed as she ate.  I nourished her when I could, and she became louder with every bite of Soul Food.
She is strong today.
She is a strong student.

She walks into nature and wonders what it might teach her.  She looks into the eyes of passing strangers and wonders what parts of God they carry inside of them.  She walks into meetings and wonders what there is to learn that day -because she knows there is SO VERY MUCH, more more than will ever fit in one speck of a lifetime.

She is curious, and the older I get, the more child-like she becomes.  She is my Benjamin Button which is uncanny because WE BOTH have had a school-girl crush on F. Scott Fitzgerald since the 10th grade.
It's all very Barbra Mandrell singing, "I was [flapper] when [flapper] wasn't cool."

What I'm trying to get out here, pal, is that
I
CAN
HEAR.

Which is really, truly something because I didn't know I couldn't until I saw those videos and saw from a third-person perspective what Soul Blockage looks like.

From where I sit now, I can smell the fragrant lilies that I knew I needed from the grocery store last night.  I can see the old cookbooks stacked in a wire basket where a gigantic pile of papers and fabric used to be.  I can feel the familiar tick of the keys I love so much, the kind that feed my soul but (unfortunately) not my belly.

My innate is my teacher.  She is Christ within, teaching me as I listen that though I don't believe it yet, I AM WORTHY.  She prompts me to do crazy things like clean the window over my sink, and I obey... five minutes later as I watch the sun set through a clean, clear window, a message is sent, "You are worth clarity.  You are worth this peace."

She prompts me to rest on the couch, to rest my soul, to meditate, to rest in God.
She prompts me to find the present.  She prompts me to let go of the past, the future, and others.

Her power is beyond comprehension.
And today I can let go of the days behind me when I tied her up and shoved a sock in her mouth. Today I can reach inside of myself.
And I can listen.

This is a miracle, and it bringeth about miracles... like walls that remind me of her:
 0708150846



Thursday, July 2, 2015

Monsoons

Arizona Monsoons are brilliant.

Arizona Deserts are moody and impatient.  They turn from parched to drenched in seconds and right back again. 
Last night, we saw a storm in the distance.  We gathered up mowers and toys, moved the dogs inside, filled our little oil lamp up, and unplugged big, expensive electronics.  The storm moved quickly in, lighting up the sky.
Rain pelted everything.
Danny stopped up leaks in our leaky house (leaky houses are more healthy than unleaky houses, just so ya know) and I played the piano.
Our kids tried to relax, but with each big BOOM their eyes got wider.  They looked to us for our reaction... if Mom is okay, then I'll be okay.

"Aren't you glad we live in this little cozy house?" I came up to my kids from behind and wrapped my arms around them, tickling them as I added, "Instead of a GIANT HAUNTED MANSION?!?!"
They squealed and screamed and ironically relaxed a little.

I went into my room to get more yarn for the scrap blanket I'm crocheting (gotta do something with all this sick time.  Hey!  Why not make an ugly blanket for the kids to fight over when I'm gone?) and realized as I switched the light in my room on that I was
SO
TERRIFIED.

The fear dark thunderstorms bring is familiar.  It's the same now as it was when I was 8.
The darkness is what does it.  I've literally slept through a Monsoon Flood during the middle of the afternoon.  But a darkened storm?  My timbers shiver.

I realize the storm, the rumblings and the grumblings, brought on the same stress that my marriage used to (and sometimes still).  You never know when there's going to be a BOOM big enough to rattle you, and the only clarity you're given is bright, instantaneous flashes of light so electric they can almost be blinding.
In the darkest place of my marriage, those electric lights were just as scary as the thunder that followed.  In fact, the closer the light came -the more and more I saw what I could do and started DOING IT -the louder the thunder got, the more the storm raged around me.

With each brilliant flash, I was scared.
Could I stand up for myself?
Could I say I was unhappy?
Would I?

I eventually would when it seemed that any other option (meaning NOT speaking up) seemed more hellish than I could fathom.  The ending result was MORE light.  And, unfortunately, more storm.

I was scared to change, scared to detach from the dark storm, scared of confrontation, scared that I wouldn't be enough on my own.

Lightening is confident.  It makes everything around it brighter -lights up the darkest skies.  It brings fire and gives us some of the GREATEST photo ops.

There is lightening inside of every soul.
It can be scary in the middle of a storm, but you know what?  I think it needs to be.  Because the STORM is scary... the storm needs somebody it's own size.
And lightening is equal to the storm.

Do rainbows come after storms?  Is there peace and tranquility?
People say so, but I generally find there's simply more storms.  I also find there's more beauty in the rainy season than any other.

Thursday, June 25, 2015

Of Mice and Mold

C.S. Lewis told me that I'm a mere player on the stage -that the REAL me exists outside of the stage -in the darkened wings and the unseen balconies, and that I can't tap into The Real Me until my part is finished, until I've washed off the stage make-up and hung up the costume... in short: until I die.

This makes absolute sense to me because I feel The Real Me at certain sacred times in my life, and each time I do, I find a sense of home that feels even more HOME than the four walls that house me right now. 
Writing does it to me -leaves me with a sense of other-worldliness that feels more like visiting a departed twin I've never met rather than an alien encounter.
Certain songs will transport me to my "other" home, remind me that I'm still playing my part on stage and that there's a wide world waiting in the wings and beyond.
But surely, PRAYER is my biggest, fattest surest freest ticket to my Homeland, to Father and Mother.

Prayer has been my golden ticket in these last years.  I always pick up a ONE WAY ticket, fully intending to never leave God's presence, but something always, always pulls me back to the bright draw of the stage lights.
God knows how I can't let go of that stage.  Even when we're together, it seems like all I can talk about is The Play.  I'm consumed with it.
He knows all about The Play.
He wrote it.  He produces it.  He is the audience, the crew, the set designer.  Alpha and Omega!

I ask Him questions, and sometimes He replies.  Sometimes He raises His eyebrow and sometimes He just smiles while I work out answers for myself.

I'm doing a scene right now titled, "Of Mice and Mold."It's really pretty grotesque.

It hold the familiar old plot line of health issues, one that I can't seem to shake.  Maybe my character plays the part well?  I don't know.  This is something I ask Father when I happen to buy a well-intentioned "one way" ticket. 

The set looks something like a blue-collar rental, adorned with antiques and dirty clothes.  There's a baby painting her own fingernails, a young boy and girl arguing over who called whose imaginary friend stupid, and Me.  Me is wearing my LEAST favorite costume: work clothes.  I'm curled up in the comfiest chair.
There's a television show on in the background, a nearly empty milk carton in the fridge and leftovers on the counter that have grown some fascinating mounds of mold.
And as I sit with a heating pad on my side, hoping to quell the pain roaring from under my right rib and calm the nausea that comes in dreaded waves, a mouse scurries around the edge of the stage.

I want to care, but I'm too tired.  I'm SO tired.

I find that in previous acts, I've had to let go of expectations in my marriage.  I've had to leave my 50th anniversary bash and dreams of grey-haired front porch hand-holding in the hands of The Playwright.
THAT was hard.
I yelled into the blackness of the audience at that point.
"You expect me to go along with this?" My hair curled, my body toned and able, my make-up as pristine as was in my power to procure.
It was my DIVA moment, The Diva Scene.

Of Mice and Mold is unfolding in what feels like YEARS away from The Diva Scene.  I'm not sassy and stamping my feet.  At this point, I'm looked less plucky and more sucky, defeated and tired.

"It's been 5 years," I whisper to the footlights because I know The Director well enough by now to know that HE WILL HEAR ME even if I don't yell, even if I don't stamp, even if I don't speak at all, "and still.  I am being asked to give more of my future.  I am being asked to give all.  I don't know if I can."

Can I surrender my ENTIRE future to God?  Can I trust Him with my health and my kids and my bank account?
With the mice?
I haven't even mentioned the mold!

These are the questions I put at His feet on my Prayer Train visits.
His answers are always so pure and delicious. 
"Stop worrying about The Play, Alicia," He closes His eyes to match my closed eyes, "And let Me."
His calming words make the mice and mold feel like distant pebbles in my shoes -the kind I kick out in an instant. I remember that The Play is a blip on the radar.  It's so easy to forget, so easy to get wrapped up in my lines, the set, the banter.

At that moment, the Real Alicia and The Real Father touch souls so intimately and deeply that I can't imagine ever opening my eyes and breaking our connection.  In that moment, God knows my deepest longings to live a life filled with Mother Teresa's charity, C.S. Lewis' wisdom, and Erma Bombeck's humor.  He knows my shame, my strength, my fears and my hopes.  It is the most vulnerable love I know. I am completely exposed, yet all around me is insurmountable support.

It is Heaven on Earth.
And I CLING to it right up until the mouse scurries across from stage right, and then my eyes fly open.  I'm back.

The Plot floods my mind: get the nail polish away from the baby, keep the chocolate from the dog. Put the fighting children outside, and don't forget to eat even if everything makes me sick.  Do I have any bleach?  Can I make it to the store?  Does anyone have any clean clothes?

My serenity is threatened constantly on stage -maintained only by the heavenly hangover that comes when I access my Real Me, my True Home.
I remember today is just today, and my only job is to be as present as I can be in it for God has a new act around every corner.
The great tragedies only come when I spend my time trying to predict and manage the upcoming acts -to grieve over my mistakes in the acts I left behind.  I try to balance every scene all at once instead of simply playing the one at hand and leaving the managing and writing to God.

Tonight, I touched The Real Me.
This makes the impending tomorrow easier. Though the mold will grow and the mice will somehow find their way from the barn to my home and the pain in my body will insist on playing it's own shadowy part... I remember the Play is just The Play.

And God, who is within and without, knows me very, very well.