Walk the Walk

Photo by K. Farwell

I’ve been going through this weird thing where all I want to do is crochet. Reading and typing seem more like a chore than anything else. On top of that I’ve continued to have headaches and upper leg and hip muscle pain. I chalked it all up to just growing old and started to get on with my life. Then, Friday, I went to my annual eye appointment, and, after my eyes  were examined,  I was told “You just made it by a thin margin—-you are just one point above not being able to drive legally.” I did not realize how worried the doctor was until he dilated my eyes, checked my right eye, and said, “The good news is you’ve not bled into your right eye.”

Talk about a kick in the stomach that wasn’t expected! My deteriorating vision explains why typing, reading, and driving are no longer enjoyable. Crocheting I can hold up close to my eyes. My  right eye is usually my good eye, and, indeed, it is the left eye that most needs cataract surgery. The doctor and I both couldn’t understand why the right eye got so much worse all of the sudden. But he decided it was because I am a diabetic. He pulled the “shaming authority” gig on me, and proceeded to lecture me on how I couldn’t ignore being a diabetic, how I always needed to check my blood sugars even if my A1-Cs were all good, etc……that if I didn’t I could go blind before I figured out something was wrong. Talk about a bummer.

My first response was denial——I told him I’d just renewed my driver’s license after passing the vision test. He said that didn’t matter because if I were to be in an accident any good lawyer would go to my medical record. The doctor gave me two choices—-I could opt to have cataract surgery right away or I could wait a couple of weeks, take my blood sugar levels twice a day, and keep a food diary and then come back to have my vision re-checked.  I opted for the two week choice because I watch my diet fairly closely and I don’t think diabetes is causing the rapid eyesight loss. If it is diabetes, it will need to be “under control” before any surgery to promote healing after the surgery. Besides, while I  am waiting  I can hang on to the fantasy that Friday’s “readings” were just a fluke and I’ll pass the vision test with flying colors in a couple of weeks.

Now that a couple of days have passed I can ask myself what is God trying to tell me. Obviously, I need to focus on acceptance of my own mortality and medical conditions. But maybe God is trying to tell me something more. Maybe he is trying to tell me to be careful before I hurt someone when I am driving. I am going to stop driving at night—–especially in the rain. And, now that I know why I hate driving in traffic, I am going to stay out of it as much as I can. I will drive more slowly.

All this time I thought floaters” were intermittently messing up my vision, but now I know it  is actually cataracts and some unknown factor. It is the unknown factor that scares me. What I am realizing as I write this is I am being given yet another opportunity to trust God and have faith——you know, to walk the walk and not just talk it. God bless and keep you.

Cup Photo compliments of K. Farwell

I  recently started reading a wonderful book (Joyce Rupp’s “The Cup of Our Life”) that has started me looking at cups very reflectively. Perhaps that is why at a Centering Prayer Workshop this weekend one of the phrases used by the speaker stuck with  me: “You have to form a reservoir before you can be a channel.” You see, for many years my waking prayer has often been, “God, let me be a channel for your love and your wisdom.” This comment about the reservoir made me step back and look at myself a bit differently. I have often told students during my many lectures given through the years that you must love yourself before you can love someone else—-that loving others as you love yourself starts, naturally, with how you love yourself. So this reservoir snippet really caught my attention. Almost exactly a week ago I had a “bad day” full of pain, grief, tiredness, depression, and the need to isolate. I realize now that in addition to having a tooth/jaw ache after a trip to the dentist I had actually let my reservoir “run dry.” I had been so busy going to meetings, leading meetings, running errands, etc. that I hadn’t taken time to nurture and love my spiritual essence. I hadn’t been getting enough rest; I had been forgetting to take some of my prescribed medications; I wasn’t drinking enough water; and, yes, after almost five months, I was still grieving the loss of my father.  I stopped writing. I stopped all the things that were good for my spirit but my “crocheting” which is very good for my soul, but by itself is not enough.  And yes, I still went to church and I still went to centering prayer meetings, but I don’t think my consent was really there. What did I learn from this? Sometimes, you just need to stop and take care of yourself. You don’t have to be around people or “doing for people” all the time. Sometimes you just need to rest; sometimes you just need to cry. The wonderful thing is that during those times God is there too. Creator is patient and understanding and still loves me even though I don’t particularly love myself at times like that. So I am drinking water now—both physically and spiritually. I am filling my reservoir, and judging from the reactions of others around me, I think I am functioning as a much better channel now that I am not running on empty. God bless and keep you.

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Needlework by S. Staples; photograph by K. Farwell

 

Once again I feel that urge to write. This morning’s sermon got me to thinking—–which is sometimes a dangerous thing. Usually I either think “rebuttals” and “disagreements” (when I am in my critical persona, one I learned from my mother) or I find myself embellishing one of the ideas presented. Today was an embellish day. The sermon itself was a wonderful one that did an excellent job of explaining what Lent is all about. I had not thought of it as an opportunity to exercise and strengthen my temptation resisting skills until I heard this morning’s sermon by Rvd. Edie.

She explained that temptation is a process. First, we become aware of an idea—-you know, those ideas commercials, for instance, are always planting in our heads. The second step is entertaining the idea—–this is a crucial step where the idea/temptation builds its strength and attractiveness to us primarily by us actively focusing our attention on it. The last step, of course, is to act on the idea. She discussed how we need to exercise and strengthen our attention skills and our ability to  intentionally re-focus our attention away from the idea that tempts us so that the last step of the process for us is choosing not to give into the temptation.

This is where I started embellishing as I listened to her sermon. As a person who practices the 12 steps of recovery I am quite familiar with these steps. When I see a commercial for a candy bar I can focus my attention on that and even begin to taste it with my imagination. Then my mind can build on the idea by telling myself, “Oh, come on, one little candy bar” won’t hurt you.” If I keep my attention going down that road, it won’t be long before I act on the idea and actually find myself eating that candy bar—-and another, and another until I make myself sick.

For a long time I have been telling myself and others in recovery to “follow it through” when the idea of having a drink comes to you—-not with thoughts of how wonderful a drink would be but with memories of what really happens to us when we take that drink and keep drinking. I have to do the same thing with thoughts of eating foods with flour or sugar in them. Giving in to either obsession has the potential to kill me. I wish I was exaggerating—-but I am not.

So, here’s the “kicker.” Those of us in recovery get to exercise “healthy attention” every day of our lives one day at a time. There is no magical end after forty days when we can go back to having what we’ve been practicing avoiding without facing deadly consequences. With all that exercise, you’d think we would develop immensely strong will power. Instead of exercising my “self-will” (which has, historically, been what has always gotten me in trouble) I have learned I can only be empowered to make healthy choices if I turn my will over to God and let God focus my attention and guide my actions.

I don’t always do so perfectly. Letting go of self-will is sometimes a daily struggle especially with food.  After all, I have to eat every day to live; therefore,  food triggers in my life are much stronger because of my daily consumption than they are with alcohol because that daily consumption ended for me over three decades ago.

I am learning to let fleeting thoughts of “wouldn’t it be nice to eat….” float right through my crowded mind. Contemplative prayer has helped me with that because I am learning not to fight my thoughts—-just to acknowledge them and to let them “float by” without giving them undue attention. I am learning to focus my attention on consenting to God’s love—–in my prayers and in my daily life. And that includes focusing my attention away from tempting food or alcohol thoughts.  It is not that I have given up certain foods or alcohol for Lent—–rather I have given them up for life and for living. I can only do that one day at a time by turning my will and my life over to the care and love of God as I understand Him/Her. May God bless and keep you.

Dog Jackets for Warmth Photo compliments of K. Farwell It is 7 or16 degrees cold outside (depending on which reading is correct, my thermostat or the local TV channel’s weather app) and 40, 54, or 66 degrees “warm” inside my house, depending on what room you happen to be in. I could use my central air and fix that, but instead I prefer to use a gas stove in my living room which should be a bit cheaper in the long run than my central heating.  That means my dogs got to put their winter jackets on this morning.  We got about 6-8″ of snow here by the time it ended yesterday.  I am too lazy to bundle up and go outside to measure the actual depth. Suffice it to say by yesterday noon the street between my house and the school across the street was undetectable—–and the school driveway “do not enter” sign looked  like it was  only a foot off the ground. Why all that minute detail? I wanted to set the stage for my television saga which began last night just as the Westminster Dog Show was starting. I had thought perhaps the snow that kept falling until about 11 AM yesterday might mess up my satellite television reception. Luckily, the snow was blowing the opposite direction than the “dish” part of the satellite that is high up on my roof where it cannot be reached to sweep the snow away. You can imagine my surprise when I punched in the numbers for the dog show channel last night and instead got a “no satellite signal” message. Then I went to the TV in my bedroom, and it was still working. So I punched in a new channel and got it without a problem. Then I punched in the numbers for the dog show. Guess what? All of the sudden that TV also had “no satellite signal” message.  I found this exceedingly strange, so I called DirecTV. After telling their computer I wanted to talk to a real person  at least three times I finally got to talk to a woman who tried to be helpful. First, she had me look for a “genie control box” that was supposed to be on the floor behind one of my television sets —-she even directed me to an online photo so I would recognize it when I found it. It was not behind either set.; so she had me look in my basement. It was not plugged into any outlets there, so I told her I didn’t have a “genie” even though she was sure I did. She said they’d been installed in all systems in the past 2-3 years.  My system was first installed before that time, but by then I knew better than to argue with her. The “tech assist” lady went on to explain that no one could be scheduled to come to my house until all the snow was gone…..which probably won’t be until sometime next week. Besides, she explained, your loss of signal is probably due to snow even though it stopped snowing eight hours earlier….and, yes, according to her, one TV set can work for a while before getting a delayed loss of signal even after the main set has stopped getting the signal. Isn’t that amazing? Want to know something else amazing? When I woke up this morning, my bedroom TV was once again getting satellite signals, and it has been doing so for about three hours now even though the main television (the one that is supposed to control what both sets do) is still not receiving a signal. I’m sure if I called there would be some off the wall explanation of why that is normal when it snows, but I hardly think it is worth the bother now. I will just watch TV in my bedroom when I need to see weather, news, or my favorite soap opera. There’s always “DirecTV everywhere” I can view on my laptop, tablet, or I-Phone….but it’s “live streaming”  is a bit limited. I think perhaps God is trying to tell me things other than television are much more important.  I didn’t have television in the house where I grew up until I was about ten years old,; therefore,  I know it is very possible to have a great life without television. So, I will patiently wait until the snow melts before trying to get DirecTV to come fix my system. I may even ask them to deduct a week from my bill. Who would have thought that many years ago when I stood outside with my father and uncles on a starry night  just to see a satellite move across the sky for the first time that I would eventually be so dependent on the orbiting wonders that I would find their limitations this exasperating? May peace and blessings come to all of us, and may those of us who are isolated due to weather conditions  use some of  the freed up time to  nurture our relationship with God. May God bless and keep you.

Teddy Bear

Photo compliments of K. Farwell

I thought I was almost through grieving my father’s death—–and then came this morning. I was searching for a number in my telephone contacts and discovered I needed to delete “Daddy” from my contact list on my telephone. It has taken me over three months to have the courage to do that. Guess that makes me a number one “wuss.” I punched “delete contact” and cried.

It is not like I am a child. I am a grown up—-at least that is what my calendar tells me. In fact,  it is telling me next week I am one year older and am well over the age most people are when they become grandmothers.  So, why am I still “Daddy’s little girl” who cries because her father has died? Maybe because I love him. Maybe because it is part of the normal grieving process. It would be more worrisome were I not still grieving. I know all this theoretically, but the pain is still intense. Understanding it doesn’t make it any easier.

My recovery program tells me to “get out of myself and into service” when I am feeling sorry for myself. So today I am going to help lead another support group, and I am going to do some sponsor work tomorrow , and lead a recovery meeting on Saturday.   I am staying busy at home, too. I am busy crocheting projects for my business and for gifts—-and I am enjoying “squeaky clean abstinence” in terms of letting God guide my eating. I am even exercising. But there are still moments my mind wanders to what is painful in my heart.

At least now smiles come as often as tears with the memories. For that I am grateful. And I realize “deleting” my father from my contact list does not mean I am deleting him from my heart. Somewhere in the Bible it tells me there is a season for everything, and this is my season for grieving. It is part of my life journey, and Got is traveling right along beside me. Writing those words  triggered a sigh along with a bit of tangible relaxation. Once again, God is with me helping me live life on “life’s terms” as is so often said around recovery tables. I could not do so without God’s help, and I am very grateful for God’s unconditional love. God bless and keep you.

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Photography courtesy of K. Farwell

I have been working on this forgiveness challenge thing (https://www.forgivenesschallenge.com), and it is helping me look at what happened in my last marriage and divorce a bit differently.

Yes, of course, I felt angry, hurt, and abandoned at the time my divorce occurred. However, as a result of being freed from a relationship that was slowly killing both of us I was given a new life.  What I went through has empowered me to live life my life fully as a survivor. Most importantly, hitting that emotional “bottom” over ten years ago triggered internal spiritual growth that has given me a true relationship with God. It has given me the choice of viewing others with compassion rather than blame or the fantasy that they can do better if I just love them. I no longer feel the need to play God or to form any relationship that has an element of me addressing someone else’s needs and issues while  ignoring my own.

Today’s forgiveness challenge had participants going through a guided imagery exercise that instructed people to hold the person they are working on forgiving as a baby in their arms….a baby pure, unblemished, and  full of potential, love, and hope. It had them, if able, to hold that baby, to bless it, and to wish it happiness. And, lastly, having done this, it asked them to let the person go. I was able to wish my ex-husband blessings and happiness, and to raise my arms and release him to God.

The exercise felt very real to me. It allowed to view my ex with compassion and forgiveness…..and to let him  and my resentment towards him go.  I felt immense relief and gratitude.  After his abrupt departure from my life over ten years ago , I used the Big Book’s resentment prayer endlessly—-or so it seemed. And, yes, to a great extent doing so worked. However, those who know me will tell you I have a very active and sarcastic tongue when it comes to talking about my ex-husband. I am hoping the forgiveness work I am doing now  is changing that.

I am learning to look at situations a bit differently. I am beginning to view actions rather than people as bad. I am learning to try to view all people with compassion knowing I am in no position to judge because there is much in my life and actions that also needs forgiven. I am learning I can choose to re-direct my thoughts from blame and anger to ones of compassion. God bless and keep you.

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I have the mid-winter blahs. Big time. Can’t blame it on the sun not shining or on ice or snow. I have once again started eating healthy—-which for me means no flour, sugar,  or carbs that are high-glycemic and weighing and measuring what I am going to eat before I eat it. In a couple of days I should be feeling a lot better. However,  these first couple of days of detoxing  from the way I was eating has made me depressed and irritable ——plus I have had to spend too much time in bathrooms.

What’s really gotten to me is taking care of my dogs. Boo had a growth removed from in front of his left ear about a week ago. That first night after surgery he spent crying and throwing up. I could not console him. He was and still is having to wear a cone to keep him from scratching his surgical site while it is healing.  In addition, one of my other dogs, Gus,  is a “licker”——he likes to lick and groom  or  “parent” other dogs almost non-stop.  Therefore, I had to put a cone on Gus to keep him from licking Boo’s surgical site.

Thankfully, Boo adjusted quite well to his cone, and he has learned to eat, drink, sleep, and climb stairs in spite of wearing it. I thought Gus had adjusted to his, but for the past couple of days he stopped eating and seemed listless. Last night I finally got him to eat by hand feeding him a little at a time by letting him lick  a few bites off of my hands. He seemed better today, but when I had a friend come over,  I took off the cone to see if that was what was depressing him. I waited to my friend was here  because it originally took the two of us to get the cone  on Gus in the first place.

A few minutes after removing Gus’ cone I noticed his whiskers under his lower jaw were pinkish red—-as if he had been eating something bloody. Then I looked at his mouth. To my dismay I found sores—-places rubbed raw—on both sides of his lower jaw. He must have rubbed himself over and over again on the inside seam of his cone without me knowing it. I will not put the cone back on him, and now I have to watch them closely or keep him and Boo separate for another almost entire week.

My friend and I put warm salt water on Gus’s raw spots to help them heal, but I know that too hurt him. I am feeling so guilty! Gus has already forgiven me, but it will be a while before I can accept hurting a dog in my care to this extent.  Of course, I’ve checked Boo’s mouth closely, and he has not rubbed any raw spots on himself.

I know I live one day at a time—-even days like today. One could say I’ve had a “semi-bad” day today—-but I am warm and dry, I have a roof over my head, my bills are paid, I have good friends, and I am healthy, at least for today. I am sober and clean. I am abstinent from foods that are unhealthy for me. My dogs love me in spite of their present condition. They have repeatedly shown me the meaning of the term “unconditional love.”

I realize I just made a list of things for which I am grateful. It worked. I no longer feel like moaning and groaning with self-pity. Now I am grateful for the gift of living today. I this moment and all of my moments are a gift from God. I also know I cannot live one day at a time without God’s love and support. I don’t keep myself clean and sober or abstinent—–God does when I am willing to let him. I am grateful for the gift of willingness that makes today’s moments possible. God bless and keep you.