Surrender

Observations From a Month Underwater

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Water, water everywhere. Most of the country knows about the intense flooding in Texas where I live.

There was enough rain in May to submerge the entire state–all 262,000 square miles–in eight inches of water. At this writing on the last day of May in North Central Texas, we’re experiencing a sunny day, one of only a handful this month. In the past week alone, we swam through double-digit inches of falling water.

Just as I’m grateful for the sun today, I’m also grateful for a refreshed commitment to recovery.

Celebrating sobriety?

May is also the month that I entered recovery 24 years ago. Although I picked up my chip and participated in my group’s recovery celebration, I spent the better part of the month wondering whether I deserved the recognition. I guess you could say that my recovery, like much of Texas, was underwater.

Recovery for me had become as cloudy and overcast as the Texas skies. Turbulent and unstable patterns threatened both my mental condition and weather conditions. To be fair, there were several factors that contributed to the perfect storm formation, but like an amateur storm chaser, I refused to believe the conditions were beyond my control.

My ego pushed me forward in repeated attempts to right-size when I should have leaned into the wall cloud of change. [bctt tweet=”The bruises and battering could have been avoided, but then, I may have missed the lesson in how to best weather a magnificent storm.”]

Now I know that I needed to flounder in the murky undercurrent so that I could once again appreciate the quality of clear-water living.

Getting into the solution

We know a little bit about being sick and tired of living sick and tired, don’t we? As years accumulate within this fabulous adventure of recovery, we get to watch the tides of high- and low-water moments.

I don’t know about you, but even at this junction of life and sobriety, I can still slip deeply into low- thinking. May found me swimming with the twin sharks of low self-worth and self-esteem. It seemed that the harder I swam, the more those damned sharks bit at me.

Finally, on Memorial Day, a thought popped into my mind, a GUS-inspired thought (God-Universe-Spirit):

Stop swimming.

The thought swelled enough that I did stop long enough to hear the second thought:

Drop the rock.

What rock? I didn’t realize I was swimming with a gigantic rock around my neck; it had been there long enough that I stopped noticing.

As quickly as GUS pointed it out, I saw it. The Rock was all the accumulated debris of a mind flooded with sludge thoughts.

What makes you think you’re worth that 24-year chip? What do you have to offer? Careful . . . if you screw up they won’t want you anymore. Oh please, do you really think they’ll want to keep you around when the project is finished? Watch out . . . any minute they’ll figure out you’re a fraud.

Please, God, help me drop the rock.

Help me let go of everything that builds a dam of unworthiness in my soul. Show me how to let the clean waters of good attitude flow again. Teach me how to once again sparkle and shine with your sunlit solutions.

Together, let’s begin the cleanup process. Yes, it’s been a wild and unpredictable May, but it’s June now and it’s time to come out from underwater.

Photo courtesy of kconnors

9 Ways to Bring Your Vacation Back to Work

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My sweetie and I just returned from a long-overdue vacation week in the Virgin Islands. We unplugged from electronics and the web and found ourselves grateful that Verizon is the only stateside wireless carrier that doesn’t serve the islands.

Our one exception to online avoidance was to borrow wifi and log into our dogs’ playtime at Top Paw Pet Resort.  The ODoggy app let us watch our babies play!

Sucked into a spiritual vortex

Looking back over the week, two things were apparent: 1) We willingly surrendered the stress choking us, and 2) God fills the spaces where stress exits.

The first morning on the beach, I stared at the azure water encircling the mountains and thought, “what stress?”

There is something mesmerizing about sea lapping against sand that helps stress melt away. I could almost feel it oozing from my pores. I believe there is something holy about beach bumming.

Our home base on Sapphire Beach, Hill Bay with its dried out mangrove roots, Magens Bay and our Sunday morning 12-step meeting, Honeymoon Bay, Trunk Bay and the British Virgin Islands all served as the means for God and I to get tight again.

I learned a critical lesson: Whenever peace eludes me, it’s never where I search or where I think it should be. Peace is the byproduct of reconnecting with who I am and then giving myself deep and abiding love.

The re-entry after vacation

As the week drew to a close, a pit of dread started to grow in my gut. The transition back into the real world is never easy; this trip created such an imprint on my soul that I knew the reentry would be extra-tough.

During the fight home I made the decision not to bitch and moan about sliding back into real life. Instead, I decided to bring my vacation back to work with me.

How? Here are nine tips that are working for me:

1) Admire what’s at a distance without giving it your complete attention. Before this trip, I had never been face-to-face with mountains and the ocean/sea. I couldn’t stop my awestruck staring at the sheer magnificence of rock rising from water but I was aware too of the beauty right in front of me. In life, we too often focus on a future event or outcome and deny ourselves the wow-factor of the moment.

2) Look closely at what’s beneath your feet. One of our favorite past-times is searching for sea glass and shells. Sometimes the coolest pieces are found with your next footstep! IMG_4778You never know what treasure lies with each step, so keep looking!

3) Dive deep to see hidden beauty. Snorkeling is another favorite thing. This trip was the best snorkeling ever as we ventured into the caves of Norman Island, made famous by Robert Louis Stevens’ Treasure Island. We saw the most beautiful coral, rainbow fish and even a barracuda. Don’t be afraid to plunge beneath the surface of your life to catch a glimpse of hidden treasures!

4) Spend time quietly listening to the voices of nature. There is little that is more soothing to me than listening to waves splashing against the shore or seagulls in boisterous conversation. Relax, listen, and renew every single day.

5) Acknowledge fear for what it is and keep on walking. A major crime occurred at our resort shortly after our arrival that sent shockwaves throughout the island. A reporter wandering the beach (and obviously trying to sensationalize the event) stopped my sweetie and asked if she feared for her safety. Her response was classic: “No. The crime was family-related so there’s no danger of anything happening to anyone else.” Still though, we took the time to talk about our fears and then moved on. The same advice can be used in life situations.

6) Share your story and be of service. Within 24 hours of our arrival, I was asked to share my recovery story at a 12-step meeting. I also had the privilege of sharing some of my experiences with a new recovery friend dealing with family issues similar to mine. Whatever your story, sharing can pay off in amounts far greater than you expect.

7) Stretch and push to do things you don’t think you can do. My new friend suggested a terrific beach that we needed to check out. She said it was a 20-minute walk through a trail in the woods but neglected to tell us about the inclines and declines. I refused to let anything stop me–even when I saw that first steep and rocky climb! You shouldn’t let anything stop you either!

8) Be spontaneous–right now. We signed up for a tour of a new beach-front timeshare on St. John because we would get a free all-day boat trip to the British VIs. And guess what? We bought the timeshare! It felt good and right and sometimes you just have to go with your gut and trust the process.

9) Embrace new friends and friendships. We found an immediate kinship with two women in recovery. Now that we’re going back next year (and for years to come!), I am so stoked to watch these friendships blossom. I really don’t think we can ever have too many people in our friendship corner, so when the chemistry is there, fan the flames!

If you’re headed back to reality this week, I feel your pain. I hope these tips help ease your transition! If you liked this post, please share on Facebook and Twitter. You’ll have my unwavering appreciation!

9 Timely Thoughts About Time

Time-passages--Buy-meHave you ever wondered how to tell the difference between wasting time vs. practicing a relaxing activity?

When is watching TV not a waste of time? Or scrolling through your favorite social media platform?

For me, knowing the difference between the two means understanding mindful intent and awareness. If you’re present to scrolling around on social media or watching TV, you’re not wasting time because you are present. You have deliberately chosen a passive activity–for however long you choose.

Passing time in rooms filled with disconnected people

Whenever I’m waiting with a group of people I don’t know–say in a doctor’s office or car dealership–I’m usually the only person whose nose is parallel to the floor instead of perpendicular. My iPhone is tucked in my pocket or purse so I’m not looking down.

Instead, I’m watching and waiting for someone to look up from their hand-held devices.

I’m dying to smile at them and start a little conversation.

I refuse to exist in a room of people for any amount of time without connecting!

Time is a precious commodity. Since there are times when we can’t choose who we spend time with, we can at least bring value to the time spent together. Would it kill you to ask someone how their day is going?

Be the connector! Fill the void! Shake up humanity!

Touch someone’s heart. I guarantee that your gesture, no matter how small, will serve you well.

In the essence of time . . .

. . . I bring you nine thoughts about time. I hope you’ll sit with each of them, do a little pondering, and then pass them on. Take the time.

May all your moments add up to peaceful time this week.

sunflowers-james

sunrise-peck

sunset-angelou

cloud trail-Mandela

Turks and Caicos-Schulz

Turks and Caicos-Seuss

bluebonnets-Bush

lake-deLaFontaine

rose-Penn

Surely Goodness and Mercy

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Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life, I wrote in my journal on Ash Wednesday.

What I wrote next was certainly not the rest of the Psalm. Watch out for the one named Surely. She can be an unpredictable wretch.

Wow. Where did that come from? No clue–but I know that on the morning of Ash Wednesday, I woke feeling a sense of goodness and mercy. The day before was one of those heavy-body, force-the-motions days and I was grateful for the relief.

Bye, bye Surely.

Shifting attitudes and grasping for joy

Turns out that the first day of Lent was a day of goodness and mercy. My sweetie got a phone call and employment offer she’d been patiently waiting for (sort of!) and we breathed a collective sign of relief.

Uncertainty and unpredictability are strange companions. When times are good–the rent and health insurance are paid and the dogs don’t missed a meal–it’s easy to stay open to whatever comes your way.

Take a risk! Be daring! Live a little more!

When you’re not sweating out the timed arrival of a check, it’s oh-so-easy to feel carefree.

When you’re all bunched up inside worrying about your bills and your credit, it is so damned hard to let your old friends, Goodness and Mercy, wrap their arms around you.

You might try the tough-guy, stiff-hug-with-three-pats-on-the-back approach with Goodness and Mercy but they see right through your attempts to grasp for joy.

What are you waiting for? Go all-in!

In order to get anything from your relationships, you have to go all-in. Is there really any other way that is satisfactory? What do you have to lose?

I wrote in my journal, Remember six years ago when you said you were all in? You said you were ready to leave predictability and certainty behind! Remember? (A journal is a good way to talk to yourself and still accomplish a daily regimen.)

Now, today, there is a beautiful, day–or evening, depending on your part of the world–stretched out in front of you. How will you play it? Granted, you have no idea what to expect, but isn’t that the point of living?

Who wants to know things before they happen? Think about that one . . .

You’ll see clues along the way if your eyes are open and your mind focused sharply on the Now. Follow those clues.

And if you see Surely out there, remember she’s the cranky one. Step around her and move on.

Photo courtesy of jonathan1991

Serenity Prayer as a Mindfulness Tool

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I figure there are only two kinds of events in life–the kind you accept and the kind you change (or attempt to change).

While the concept is simple, the spectrum of emotions attached to the two kinds of events is wider than the upper Mississippi River during a spring thaw.

Let’s say you’ve waited for months on a decision that will impact your financial stability for the entire year. You make your initial choice to accept the waiting period because your other choice–changing the event by walking away–is a no-go.

My question to you is this: What do you do with your emotions while you wait?

Waiting is seldom easy, unless . . .

Rare is the person in recovery who finds it easy to wait. Heck, rare is the PERSON who finds waiting easy or even tolerable.

How do we wait and accept the waiting? How do we wait and change? How do we respond?

I read an article from PsychologyToday.com:

“But, how do we go about accepting the things we can’t change and changing how we respond to what we can’t change? Both of these involve adjusting our thinking, how we deal with our emotions, and the actions we take—and in both, the practice of mindfulness can be a great asset. (The underline is mine.)

“Mindfulness helps create the conscious awareness to notice our thoughts, observe them, question &/or dispute their accuracy, and detach from them. Since thoughts often provide such potent fuel for emotions, this shifts much of the wind away from sails of our emotions.”

“The practice of mindfulness can be a great asset.”

Here’s me being honest: I am not a good waiter. I pace, hands on hips or in jeans pockets, and mumble under my breath.

I watch the clock. I eat chocolate. I roam the house then eat more chocolate. And, I avoid mindfulness because in my gut I know it works.

My ingrained reaction to a life event is two-fold: eerie quiet followed by frantic activity. I could blame my so-called addictive personality, but at some point that excuse wears thin as onion-skin.

Mindfulness–“the conscious awareness to notice our thoughts, observe them, question &/or dispute their accuracy and detach from them”–IS the easier, softer way I avoid.

Okay, so that cat is out of the bag.

A perfect mindfulness tool

Dan Mager, author of the above-referenced article, writes that the Serenity Prayer is “the ultimate coping device.”

“If we take the time and make the space to consider it consciously, all of our experiences, both internal and external, fit into one of these two basic categories” (what we can change and what we can’t), Mager writes.

Here’s the part I love:

“Mindfulness practices build a space within which we can witness our emotions and give them room to breathe. When we can allow our feelings to simply be, accepting them without reflexively buying into or attaching any particular value to them, their intensity lowers and we experience less pressure to act on them.”

Mager’s advice lets me learn how to roll with my emotions and when the time is right, respond appropriately rather than react inappropriately.

Say it with me: “God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, courage to change the things I can and wisdom to know the difference.” 

Mindfulness allows the wisdom to know the difference.

Photo courtesy of placardmoncoeur