The Listener

The Listener

 

There’s a lot to be said for being a good listener. My favorite guidance counselor in junior high told me that when I was in seventh grade and I never forgot it.

 

I really hated seventh grade. All of junior high stunk, in my opinion. No one liked me, my face was broken out, I was fat, hiding in food, and felt completely alone in the world. All that was on my mind was being liked by the girls in my class and capturing the attention of whatever mismatched, father-clone-bad-news guy I had set my heart on. My heart was always getting broken and very few people liked me.

 

My guidance counselor was a like a lighthouse in the storm of middle school. He listened to me and urged me to listen to others.

 

A lot of the time, all a person needs is to be heard. They don’t need suggestions, ideas, or fixes. They need to express themselves in a safe environment. It’s vital that the person speak their truth and get it out of themselves.

 

I think I’m a pretty good listener. That is one of my positive character traits. I try and listen no matter how long the person goes on or what they’re saying. I nod and say, “Hmmm,” so they know I’m really hearing them. I try not to comment, judge, or make suggestions. That’s not what they really want or need, nor is it my place to do that. People seem to gravitate to me in this manner. They tend to pour out their soul to me on the spot. They seem to like me to listen to them. I am honored, humbled, and grateful that they feel comfortable sharing with me in this way.
CoDA meetings are full of good listeners. That is what is so cool about program. Crosstalk and feedback are discouraged. This means that we are not supposed to make comments on another’s share, answer them, or make suggestions. We are not supposed to fix, control, manipulate, judge, condemn, direct, scold, compliment, or praise. We are not there to fix each other. We are there to recover. We are there to let the God in others speak to us through their experience, strength, and hope as shared in meetings. We are there to let God speak through our own shares to others. I heard it said in a meeting once that we are there to help one other person in the meeting if we can. I have always remembered that and carry it with me.

 

I need for someone to listen to me too, so I go to meetings, have a sponsor, and a therapist. When there’s no one available to listen to me, I journal. I write and write until it’s out of me. I always feel better afterwards. If what I’ve written is really negative stuff, then I burn it afterwards. The burning of this negative writing symbolizes the death of those dark feelings. I learned this practice from my therapist and have used it for years. It is a very effective practice for me.

One thing that occasionally inhibits my ability to be a good listener to others is the chatter that goes on in my head. Sometimes my mind wanders and pretty soon I’m worried about the emails and phone calls I have to return, the busy schedule I have on deck for tomorrow, and how I’ll be able to get everything done. When I catch myself in this act, I just bring myself back to the moment and back to active listening.

When this happens, it’s usually a sign that I’m feeling overloaded. I need to bring the listening session to an end and go take care of myself. If I’m unable to listen at that moment, I’ll need to speak up and say so. This is difficult for me because I was taught at an early age to never, ever interrupt people. So I rarely cut people off when they’re speaking. I do get caught in monologues a lot of the time. When this happens, I try to look at it as me being of service to someone. That is me, as they say in program, taking a 12-Step call. The person needs to be heard. I am giving them that sounding board.

I usually engage in negative self-talk when my mind wanders during a share or I consider ending a listening session with someone. I accuse myself of being selfish and self-serving. I need to get over myself and be of service to this individual by giving them an ear.

That is what Jesus would do. He would listen. He wouldn’t be stewing over his endless “to do” list while Peter was pouring his heart out about how he felt like such a schmuck for denying him. Jesus would have listened and he did.

But then there’s a scene in the bible (Luke 4:42 and 5:16), where a huge crowd of people is waiting for Jesus to come and heal them. However he does not stay, but leaves to go and pray to his heavenly father. Wow! Even Jesus takes time to take care of himself. That is comforting. Self-care is in the bible.

My therapist once told me that when others share their troubles with me, it is my job to be a good listener if I choose to do that and if I have time to be there for them. I don’t need to fix their problems, take on their feelings, or obsess about them. I just need to listen. When I’m done listening to them, I can take everything they told me, put it in that imaginary goblet I’ve mentioned before, and offer that goblet up to God. I give it to Him and let it go. He is the only one who can fix it anyway. This practice works well for me so I use it a lot.

 

My Quaker friend Beth was an excellent listener. She was an incredible human being and gave so much of herself to others in many ways. Her greatest gift was her ability to listen to others without judgment. She could find something good in everyone and everything. That is a unique and rare gift. I miss her and I want to be like her in that way; kind, loving, giving, with an incredible ability to listen without condemnation.

 

I can learn to be like her if I learn to listen without judgment to my own troubles, fears, inadequacies, failures, inner-most pain, and disappointments. I have to learn to love myself enough to believe I don’t deserve to hurt like that. Then I need to do what’s necessary to take care of and heal myself. That means journaling, worship, meditation, working the steps, going to meetings (CoDA and Quaker), sharing, listening, doing service work, doing my music, art, writing, and occasionally sitting down and just breathing in and out.

I will strive to continue to be a good listener to others and to myself, to the best of my ability.

 

Compassionate

 

Compassionate

 

Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved,

clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience.

~ Colossians 3:12 (NIV)

 

 

Working the 12-step program of Co-Dependents Anonymous has enabled me to have compassion for others. This is largely because doing this work has enabled me to develop some compassion for myself. If I don’t have it for myself, I can’t give it to others. It’s taken me a long time to learn that.

To me, compassion means that I’m aware of how others feel, have sympathy for them, and want to make them feel better.

 

In doing my service work, as well as at other times in my life, I am genuinely concerned for others and want to alleviate their suffering. What they’re going through usually triggers similar feelings in me based on similar experiences I’ve had in my own life. That is why this program works so well. We share our experiences, learn from each other, and heal ourselves, with God’s help.

 

So how have I developed compassion for myself? I have had to look in the mirror and say to my reflection, I know how you feel. I care about how you feel. I understand what you’re going through and want to make you feel better.

 

I have developed compassion for myself by working my program. I journal every morning and pour my soul out to God. I get out my 12 and 12 workbook, do the reading, and answer the questions. The readings from my journal and answers to the workbook questions are often complete confessions from the bottom of my soul of how I’m feeling about whatever is going on in my life at that moment and how it relates to what happened in my past. I read these answers to my sponsor.

Getting these feelings, experiences, and thoughts on paper and out in the open by reading them to someone else gets them out of me and out in the open where I can deal with them. It is then that I can become fully aware of my own suffering. It is then that I can say, Wow, look at what Juliet has been through. That is a lot of stuff. Good for you for surviving it. Let’s make Juliet feel better. Let’s keep working on program. Let’s keep growing closer to God.

 

The other reason that this step work and journaling works in getting me to feel compassion for myself is that it gets me out of the reactor and into the observer. By reading my thoughts, feelings, and experiences on paper, I can look at them from the observer’s point of view and thus develop an objective view of them. This objective view often needs the assistance of my sponsor and therapist. But then I can look at it, and come back to make the statement I made above. Let’s take what you’ve been through and make something positive out of it. Let’s make a new, more positive, more compassionate Juliet.

 

In order to develop compassion for myself, I had to get to the mile marker in my distress journey where I decided enough is enough. I had to decide that I deserve to be happy and I need to stop driving myself crazy.

 

I had to get to the breaking point. I had to step outside of myself and into the observer long enough to be able to see what my defects of character and bad behaviors had done to my serenity level. They have flattened it like a steamroller. I can be my own worst enemy.

 

I have had several breaking points, but two of them race to the forefront of my mind right away. The first one that comes up right off the bat was my situation with Brad. With Brad, I woke up and realized I could not go on living in the misery I was in. I needed to end the lie and break up with the man who did not love me. I had to admit that I was not able to do casual relationships. This breaking point also made me realize that I had to make my recovery program the number one priority in my life. This included, once again, making my relationship with God my number one priority in my life.

 

The other breaking point was the illness and eventual death of my beloved brother-in-law Zeb. I remember getting off the phone with my sister and Zeb and putting my face to the floor and surrendering to God. I worshipped that way for a while. (Physical form during worship is the worshipper’s choice.) At the conclusion of this worship, I wrote a note to myself on an index card that said, “I must trust God, there is no other option.” I looked at it and took a deep breath. This was God talking to me.

 

I then realized that I had no control over what life brings to me. I only have control over how I react to it. That means that I have to stop torturing myself with over-responsibility, obsessiveness, compulsiveness, perfectionism, workaholism, and all the rest of my defects. I saw myself from the observer’s point of view and recognized how distressed I have made myself from my unrealistic expectations of myself.

 

Reading scripture has taught me that I am a beloved child of God just the way I am and that I deserve to be happy and serene. I deserve to stop beating myself over the head. I deserve to stop working for 5 minutes.

 

So, out of compassion for myself, I’ve made it a habit to put down the lesson plans, violin, book, rake, vacuum, to step away from the computer that is absolutely exploding with emails from my students’ parents. I step back. I go sit on the porch and breathe in and out for 5 to 10 minutes without doing anything. I take a break. I go for a walk. I talk to God. I get on my knees, on my face, and ask for help from Him. I use the slogans.

 

I say, “God, help me let go of what I can’t control. I can’t God, you can, please take over.”

 

Whatever it is, I turn it over to God.
This is me being compassionate with myself. It all starts there. Then I can learn how to be compassionate with others.

 

I compassionately do the 12th Step, being of service to others.

12: Having had a spiritual awakening as the result of these steps, we tried to carry this message to other codependents, and to practice these principles in all our affairs.[1]

 

 

I am compassionate to others by hosting CoDA meetings, listening, taking 12-Step calls, praying for others, and putting notes in my God Box for them. I give them to the Creator, our ultimate, perfect, loving, ever-present, ever-caring God. That is compassion at its finest. God parted the Red Sea, sent his son to die for our sins, sent an Angel to break Peter out of prison, and killed the entire Syrian army overnight, amongst many other amazing things. He can take care of whomever I’m worrying about in any moment.

 

By giving others to God, I am having compassion for myself. I can’t fix others. I can’t even fix myself. Only God can do those things. Now He can work through me to help me do for myself what I otherwise could not do alone.

 

I can share my sympathy for others by letting them know I care. I can listen with love if they need to share. I can even listen with compassion and, most of the time, not try to fix it. I couldn’t do that before I started working the program. I would try to fix their problems, lay awake nights trying to figure out how I could fix them, fix their problems. I don’t have to do that anymore, thanks to this work I’m doing.

 

I have compassion for others, whether it is my colleague who lost her husband suddenly, the 15-year-old student who lost her battle with leukemia, my friend who just had a stroke, or my friend who is facing heart failure. I care about these people and want to end their suffering. I reach out to them. I give them to God. That is compassion.

 

How I strive to be like my late Quaker friend, Beth. She was the picture of compassion. She was one of the most patient, kind, caring, sympathetic, and loving people I have ever known. She was a beautiful peaceful soul. I miss her.

 

I am developing compassion for myself by nurturing myself. I nurture my spiritual self by giving myself time to worship God, read and memorize scripture, listen to sermons in my car, and go to Quaker Meeting. I nurture my creative soul by giving myself time to practice my instruments, write music, paint, and write my books. I nurture my whole self by going to CoDA meetings, doing my step work, and by listening to my own taped step work in the car.

 

Then you know what happens? I have compassion for others, especially my students. When I see a student who is sad, not having a good morning, I can now stop and look at them and think, “Wow, they look tired today. Maybe I’ll back off. They’re probably doing the best they can. This is how they are today.” I put their comfort and welfare in front of my selfish inner desire to look good at the concert in front of my colleagues and parents. It’s not all about me. It’s about the kids.

 

I am a child of God. This belief helps me look for the God in others.

 

God help me come from a place of compassion in all areas of my life and with everyone that I meet, including myself.

 

Thank you, God.

 

 

 

[1] Co-Dependents Anonymous. Co-Dependents Anonymous. Dallas, TX:  CoDA Resource Publishing, 2009, p. iv.

To Stay or To Go?

 

To Stay or To Go?

 

The sign says “prepare to stop.”

But all I want to do is run.

Run from the gray trees and sky

Gray on the road ahead

And the gray in my reflection.

The gray in your dying face.

 

But In Front of Me by Juliet A. Wright

copyright 2008, all rights reserved

 

 

In the following entry, I express my desire to control the timing of a trip out west in the inevitable event of my brother-in-law’s death. (He died on May 9, 2014.) Once again, I am trying to control something I can’t control.

 

I feel like I’m being controlled by the situation in California. My brother-in-law Zeb is ill with cancer, and I am obsessing about having to take a trip out there and how it will affect my schedule and life.

 

I feel like when Zeb passes, I must be ready to go at that minute and that I don’t have a choice. I mean I want to do the right thing, but what if it’s in the middle of my concerts at school? What if it’s in the middle of my Maine vacation or the summer course I’m taking? I feel like everything I do is dependent on what happens out west. Maybe that’s the wrong way to think. Is this negative thinking? It certainly seems selfish of me. I hate to think what this says about my character.

 

At the same time, I am obsessed with thoughts of my sister Alice, her exhaustion, stress, current and future grief. I want to make everything okay for her, to take the pain away. I know that is impossible. I want to be there for her, but need to be here to do my work too. I want to control the situation to have the outcome be best for everyone. This is beyond my control.

 

Juliet’s Codependency Patterns at work here: 

  • If you hurt, I hurt, I think I have to fix you.
  • I don’t know what I need, I focus on what you need.
  • I am obsessed with making you happy, with saving you.
  • Please don’t get mad at me. I’ll do or be whatever you say.
  • My fear of abandonment and fear of rejection determine how I behave.[1]

 

Juliet’s Feelings Patterns:

  • This is all my fault, I did something wrong.
  • I don’t deserve good things.
  • They are going to abandon me.
  • They are going to reject me.[2]

 

But I do have a choice in how I react or respond to the information that is presented to me when it arrives. I can say yes if I am available, or no if it is impossible for me to get away. Or I can offer to go and see if I’m needed. I need to be there for Alice if she needs me. That is what’s right. Why don’t I give it to God and let it go?

 

The outcome of this was that I didn’t abandon my sister. I offered to go out there and Alice declined my offer. So I did okay. I did it as right as right could be in this situation. God took care of it for me.

 

It’s okay for me to take care of myself. I can live my life one day at a time. I can see where spirit leads. I am not in the driver’s seat.

 

I have to remember that if it creates resentment in my heart, it’s not a choice so I can’t do it. Everyone will know of my hidden inner resentment because to people that know me it won’t be hidden at all. I will have this ugly vibe about me that will affect everyone around me. That won’t serve anyone, so that is not a choice either.

 

I obsessed endlessly about this situation. Some of the background information on this dilemma is that my parents were very sick for many years. This made cross-country trips on a moment’s notice a regular event. These trips can take a toll on your energy, nerves, and life after a while. With this particular situation regarding Zeb, I was out of control with it at that time. Over and over, I ran the same conflicted thoughts about the California trip through my head. The hamster got on his wheel and wouldn’t stop.

 

Here is my control situation put through Process One and Process Two.

 

Process One: 

  1. I consciously breathe in and out slowly. Breathing with awareness brings me back to the present moment. It gives me an automatic time-out.
  2. I become aware of what I’m doing.
  3. I ask myself, What’s going on in my body, feelings, and brain?

Body: Tense, heart racing, muscles are clenched

Feelings: Feeling threatened, unsafe, agitated, but guilty, shameful, bad, and selfish as well

Brain: My brain is wanting to know if and when I have to go to California, and it’s worried about the timing of it all. How will it affect my work, concerts, and summer?

  1. If possible, I write down the information and journal about how I’m feeling. I am feeling threatened, unsafe, agitated, but guilty, shameful, bad, and selfish as well.
  2. I pray for the willingness to accept the situation and information as it is. God help me be willing to accept the situation as it is. Someone I care about might need me to go be with them. It might be at an inconvenient time for me. Help me to be willing to accept that I may have to change my schedule and go if needed.
  3. I pray for acceptance of the situation. God, I am now willing. Please help me accept the fact that I may have to change my schedule and go out west if needed.
  4. I admit powerlessness over said problem. I am powerless over when I might be needed out west.
  5. Then I become willing to feel my feelings. I am willing to feel my feelings of feeling threatened, unsafe, agitated, but guilty, shameful, bad, and selfish as well.
  6. I pray for God to help me with the pain I feel inside. Dear God, please heal the painful feelings I feel inside of being threatened, unsafe, agitated, but guilty, shameful, bad, and selfish as well.
  7. I put a note in my God Box about it. Dear God, I give you the situation out west and my feelings and the solution to the highest good of all involved.
  8. Where can I put my mind that is not on this? I go do something else.
  9. The something else lately has been me playing music on my violin, viola, cello, and guitar when I feel the CoDA crazies coming on as a result of control issues. Playing music gets me relaxed, calm, breathing, and balanced. In the later section, “Music for Recovery (The Healing Power of Music),” I will discuss the genres of music I play in more detail.
  10. I have to remember that God doesn’t make junk. I am a beloved child of God just the way I am. I don’t have to do anything to be okay. I am okay just because I’m me. I must never forget that. I am a worthwhile person just because I exist.
  11. From now on, I will keep turning the matter over to God until I get back in balance. He is in control, not me. I pray and give it to God. He will help.
  12. Even if I start obsessing about wanting to control the circumstances surrounding the possible trip out west and the critic has convinced me what a selfish person I am, I’m still okay. I’m still a good person. I am a beloved child of God. I can always talk to God about it. He’ll help me.
  13. Take myself to Tanglewood: If I’m not near my picture, I use my cross ring as an anchor to remind me to go to Tanglewood in my mind. It helps me relax.

 

After I go through Process One, I proceed to Process Two — Make a Plan:

 

  1. I recheck my anxiety level. How am I feeling? Better, less threatened, unsafe, agitated, guilty, shameful, bad, and selfish as well
  2. I breathe big and deep.
  3. What’s the information? I may need to take a trip out west when it’s not convenient for me. I want to control the timing but I can’t. It is out of my hands.
  4. What are my choices? I can sit here and fret about it like the hamster on the wheel over and over, or I can give it to God and trust that He is sovereign over the situation and me.
  5. I hold the outcome in the Light of God, give thanks, and visualize what I want. God, I give this situation to you to the highest good of all involved. What do you want me to do?
  6. I take action in the direction of the choices I’ve made. If needed, I plan my additional steps. I listen for God’s guidance and directions.
  7. I affirm my choice and accept it. God is telling me to let go and trust Him. He is reminding me to “Be still and know that I am God.”
  8. I give it to God by either placing my problem in an imaginary goblet and offering it up to God with arms outstretched or by getting on my hands and knees and giving it to Him. Thank you God for taking this off my plate.
  9. I ask myself, Where could I put my mind that’s not on this?
  10. In this instance, I get out my violin or my guitar and play a few songs.
  11. I thank God. Thank you God for taking care of me.

 

Thank you God for this learning.

 


[1] Ibid.

[2] Ibid.

Control

 

Control

 

I struggle with control. I want to control every aspect of my life. This includes but is not limited to my weight, my students and how they behave, what other people think of me, and my spiritual, physical and mental health. Above all I want to control the outcomes of situations in my life. I want to control the future. Yet I know that’s impossible and ridiculous.

 

The funny thing is that I didn’t realize I had control issues until I got into recovery. I thought me, controlling? Never! Doing recovery work has really helped me to uncover my true self.

 

I’m not typically controlling with other people, unless I’m in the classroom. The classroom is the place where the controlling side of me comes out. This is when I need to plug in a modified Process Four:

 

  • Don’t take it personally.
  • Don’t react.
  • Don’t get caught in a power struggle.
  • Stick to business and just teach music.
  • Think before you speak.
  • This too shall pass.
  • Let it go.

 

  • Don’t get caught in a power struggle: I learned this from a wonderful classroom management class I took a couple of years ago. Getting involved in power struggles rarely works, plus it’s exhausting. So what I do is take a time-out, then continue with my lesson.

 

It took me a long time to learn the above lesson about power struggles. I thought if I fought hard enough, I could win. That’s not true, especially for someone who has been a passive, conflict-avoidant her whole life. I can’t control what my students think and do. I can do my best to manage their behavior through well planned, interesting lessons. Ultimately, it is the students’ choice how they behave.

 

A lot of my desire to control things gets stuck in my head in the form of obsessive worrying and anxiety, which does me no good at all. The I should have done this or that! or Why did I do this or that? starts dancing in my head over and over. It’s completely unproductive and crazymaking.

 

And when I’m behind the wheel of a car and the pace is slower than I would like it to be (i.e. I run into road construction, get behind a dump truck or school bus), I try to control the situation by whining, complaining, and yelling, as if that is going to help. I am always running late and in a hurry. I am still driving safely most of the time, but my behavior inside the car is controlling and agitated. I don’t like this controlling behavior and would like to change it.

 

The rest of the time I am a passive, compliant person when I am relating to other people.

 

I also want to control things to avoid feeling guilt, pain, sadness, and shame. I can understand that. I’ve felt enough of that in my life. Why would I want to feel any more?

 

Shame

Shame

 

In you, Lord, my God,

I put my trust.

I trust in you;

Do not let me be put to shame,

Nor let my enemies triumph over me.

 

~ Psalm 25; 1-2 (NIV)

 

I experience shame on a regular basis. Shame is one of my defects of character. I am shame-based.

 

To me, shame means that I feel guilty and regretful for something I’ve done to the point that I consider myself less of a person because of it. It’s a very painful emotion.

 

I have felt shame about several of the incidents that I have written about in this book. Examples would be the episodes with Connie in “Keeping My Eyes on Christ,” Lisa in “Fear of Abandonment and Fear of Rejection,” and Louis in “Don’t React in the Classroom.” I had shame attacks over all of those events. These shame attacks left me very grief-stricken.

 

I felt shame about the way I handled a call with the bank a while back. I wrote about it in “Rage.” I felt like I wasn’t nearly as nice to the representative as I could have been. So I beat myself up about it.

I wondered at the time if I should call back and apologize. However, the bank people work out of huge warehouse type situations and there are so many people working there. Plus, I didn’t remember her name. So that was kind of out.
I did tell God I was sorry and said a prayer for this person who was really trying to help me.

I was lying in bed the night after this conversation with the bank lady occurred, still filled with shame. I opened my In This Moment Daily Meditation Book from CoDA to see what it had to say.

 

The reading for that day basically said that I can “forgive myself for hurting others.” I can also give the situation over to God so that I can free myself from the negative feelings I have that are weighing me down. I have a choice about whether or not to communicate this to the other person in involved. “I no longer feel shame for who I am,” it read.[1]

 

This was God talking to me. Of all the readings that could come up for that day, this was the one that was there. It was written there by God specifically for me. I breathed a sigh of relief. Everything is going to be okay and I am safe.

 

I am trying to rid myself of the defect of shame because it doesn’t accomplish anything. All it does is make me feel lousy about myself and that hurts. It serves no other purpose.

 

Some people say that bad feelings have a purpose. One of my bible teachers says that guilt is to the conscience what pain is to the body. It tells you there is something wrong. Okay, I buy that, but there are limits. I do or say something, then realize I shouldn’t have done it. I guess that is where guilt comes in as a signal to me that I did something wrong.

 

That is guilt, not shame. The shame-based person, such as myself, goes overboard from guilt into shame, humiliation, and self-loathing. At that point, the signal stops being productive.

 

When I do something wrong, I really get down on myself. I’m very unforgiving and judgmental of myself.

 

Juliet’s Feelings patterns at work here: 

 

This is all my fault. I did something wrong.

They are right. I am wrong.

I don’t deserve good things.

I am less than.

I am ashamed.

I’m bad and now everyone knows it. I’ll be alone forever.

Different from everyone.[2]

 

 

I think that sometimes I get so caught up in my center of the universe complex, me first, what I want, ego, Juliet-the-driven, impatient person, that I get very easily frustrated and thus abrupt with others, like I did with the bank lady. I fear that I’m like that with my students, on occasion. There is that darned impatience again. Thank heavens I don’t beat them up the way I do myself. I hope they don’t beat themselves that way either.

It’s one thing to admit I’m wrong about something and make amends. It is another thing to hang this bag of bricks around my neck filled with shame and self-loathing and walk around with it for days. I don’t think that is what God had in mind.

The good news is that I have woken up to my tendencies on the phone with service people. I am nicer now. I just spoke with the alarm lady today and was very, very nice to her. So that is a step in the right direction.

Another step in the right direction is that I have realized that I can’t do things that annoy me. This means that if it annoys me to call a service provider, speak with someone I don’t understand, stay on hold forever, and then get hung up on, I shouldn’t do it. Likewise if I’m going to be on hold with the bank and then will have to go back and forth doing the same things over and over and not get anything accomplished except rage and resentment.

 

For example, I recently spent a rage-producing amount of time on the phone with a telephone service carrier. I wrote about this earlier. I was trying to get them to send me email reminders and electronic copies of the phone bill for the non-profit organization I am involved with. I am their treasurer and need the bill so I can pay it. For a number of reasons that I won’t go over here, they said they couldn’t fulfill either request. So I wrote out a reminder note for myself for each month in the coming year and put it in my “bills to be paid” clip. Now I see the note, go online, and pay the bill on the bank site. Problem solved. Desperate times call for desperate measures of self-care. Life is too short!!

 

Additional practices that help to me work through my shame: 

  • Program literature: Reading the CoDA basic text and especially the In This Moment Daily Meditation Book from CoDA gets me out of a shame spiral because they always have the perfect passage written there that I need to see at that moment. I no longer feel alone. Someone else out there has struggled with the same issues as me and has a solution. Reading the 12 Promises, 12 Steps, and 12 Traditions of CoDA really helps me to forgive myself, rediscover my sense of worth, and gets me back on program with God in the driver’s seat. Thanks be to God.
  • Step work: I work the steps on whatever situation is triggering my shame attack. Then I read this step work to my sponsor.
  • Attend meetings: Going to a CoDA meeting is one of the best ways for me to work through the tough times when I’m suffering from a shame attack. Following the format of the meeting, reading the literature, and listening to the shares of others is comforting. I feel less alone, less defective.
  • Gratitude list: Reading my gratitude list helps bring me back to a place where I realize how wonderful my life is, how much I have, and how much I’ve accomplished. This helps me to realize that I am a good person and I deserve good things.
  • Documentation: I record my thoughts and revelations about the situation that is causing my shame attack. Then I listen to the tape and write the contents into my computer. Working the matter out in this way really helps me to become settled on the matter.
  • Give it to God: I place the person and situation that is triggering my shame into a beautiful, imaginary goblet and offer it up to God. Then I put a note in my God Box about it. This helps me let go and move on.
  • Service work: I always feel better after doing service work. I know I’ve done something good by giving back and helping other people.
  • Submission: I get down on my knees in the morning, give my life and my day to God, and ask that His will be done. I say The Lord’s Prayer, The Serenity Prayer, and My 11th Step Prayer. In this way, I reaffirm that God is in control.
  • Worship: I pray to God. I walk into His healing arms. I tell Him what is bothering me and ask for Him to heal me. I ask Him through prayer to help me feel better about myself. I listen to Him through meditation.

[1] Co-Dependents Anonymous. In This Moment Daily Meditation Book. Phoenix, AZ: Co-Dependents Anonymous, 2006, p. 211.

[2] Adapted from the Family of Origin packet materials provided by the Sequoia Recovery Center.

Codependency and Selfishness

Codependency and Selfishness

 

What I’ve noticed about my codependency in relation to my selfishness is that my disease has led me to take care of others for most of my life. Most of my time on this earth has been consumed by what someone else needs, wants, and has to have. Taking care of them has been priority number one, along with feeling their feelings and being the scapegoat for whatever has gone wrong.

 

Juliet’s Codependency Patterns and Feelings at work here:

  • Your moods and actions are my fault.
  • If you hurt, I hurt; I think I have to fix you.
  • Your customs and thoughts are always right. I’m always wrong.
  • I am obsessed with making you happy, with saving you.
  • My fear of abandonment and fear of rejection determine how I behave.
  • Please don’t get mad at me. I’ll do or be whatever you say.
  • I think I have to be perfect and so do you. Nothing less will do.
  • I am less than.[1]

 

Juliet’s Feelings:

  • This is all my fault. I did something wrong.
  • They are right, I am wrong.
  • They are going to abandon me.
  • They are going to reject me.
  • I don’t deserve good things.
  • I am less than.
  • I am ashamed.
  • I’m bad and now everyone knows it. I’ll be alone forever.
  • Different from everyone.[2]

 

 

I have focused on the needs of others so much in my life that at one point I woke up and realized I didn’t know who I was, what I wanted, or how I felt. Then I came to CoDA. I started learning who I was, what I liked and wanted. Most important of all, I strengthened my relationship with God. I learned what He wanted me to do with my life. So when I finally came face-to-face with who I was, who God wanted me to be and what He wanted me to do, I wanted to spend all of my time in that place doing what God wanted me to do.

 

By this point, my inner child had made me wake up and pay attention. My inner child was saying, “What about me, when do I matter? When do I count?”

 

I hadn’t had much time to answer those questions and fulfill those requests of hers, making time for her, letting her know she matters, that she counts and that what she wants is important. So in the beginning I may have been a little selfish about my self-care. I was just learning to take care of myself. I am also learning what is mine to take care of and what isn’t. That distinction is really important for me to understand and respond to appropriately.

 

 

Positive Affirmations:

  • Taking care of myself is not selfish, it’s self-care and that is a good thing.
  • It’s okay for me to put myself first.
  • Juliet deserves good things.
  • Juliet matters.
  • Juliet deserves to be happy, even when someone else isn’t.
  • Juliet deserves to take time off without feeling guilty, even if someone else is busy or working.

 

The good news is that as long as I follow my process, I can defuse the feelings I identified above and get all that negative stuff out of there.

 

 

Working through Selfishness with My Processes

 

So let’s plug my processes in to an instance when the phone is ringing after hours and my inner critic has called me selfish.

 

Process One:

 

  1. I consciously breathe in and out slowly. Breathing with awareness brings me back to the present moment. It gives me an automatic time-out.
  2. I become aware of what I’m doing.
  3. I ask myself, What’s going on in my body, feelings, and brain?

Body: Tense, heart-racing, muscles are clenched

Feelings: Feeling threatened, unsafe, a little angry, but guilty, shameful, bad, and selfish as well

Brain: My brain says that my boundaries are feeling violated and I need to step back and take care of myself. My inner critic, however, is labeling me as bad and selfish for not taking care of the other person. I am believing him.

  1. If possible, I write down the information and journal about how I’m feeling. I feel guilty, shameful, bad, for being selfish. My inner critic is after me.
  2. I pray for the willingness to accept the situation and information as it is. God help me be willing to accept the situation as it is. Someone I care about is calling too late and I need to be in bed. Help me to be willing to accept that I may have to disappoint them, and take care of myself by getting some sleep.
  3. I pray for acceptance of the situation. God, I am now willing. Please help me accept the fact that someone is calling too late and I may have to let them down by not answering the phone.
  4. I admit powerlessness over said problem. I am powerless over what this person will think of me by not answering the phone.
  5. Then I become willing to feel my feelings. I am willing to feel my feelings of feeling threatened, unsafe, a little angry, but guilty, shameful, bad, and selfish as well.
  6. I pray for God to help me with the pain I feel inside. Dear God, please heal the painful feelings I feel inside of being bad, selfish, blamed, shameful, threatened, unsafe, guilty, and a little angry.
  7. I put a note in my God Box about it. Dear God, I give you the situation with this person on the phone and my feelings and the solution to the highest good of all involved.
  8. Where can I put my mind that is not on this? I go do something else.
  9. In this case the something else would be to go to sleep.
  10. I have to remember that God doesn’t make junk. I am a beloved child of God just the way I am. I don’t have to do anything to be okay. I am okay just because I’m me. I must never forget that. I am a worthwhile person just because I exist.
  11. From now on, I will turn off the phone at 8:00 pm and will stay away from it until morning. I will deal with the problems or issues then. I will pray and give it to God too. He will help.
  12. Even if I listen to the phone and feel awful or pick up too late as the critic has convinced me what a selfish person I am, I am still okay. I’m still a good person. I am a beloved child of God. I can always talk to God about it. He’ll help me.
  13. Take myself to Tanglewood: If I’m not near my picture, I use my cross ring as an anchor to remind me to go to Tanglewood in my mind. This helps me relax.

 

 

After I go through Process One, I proceed to Process Two — Make a Plan:

 

  1. I recheck my anxiety level. How am I feeling? Better, less sad, less panicked, more relaxed
  2. I breathe big and deep.
  3. What’s the information? The phone is ringing too late and I can hear it and I’m feeling selfish for not answering. The machine got it and I feel selfish for not calling back.
  4. What are my choices? I can call back and be resentful and cranky about it, or I can go to sleep, wake up fresh tomorrow, and call the person back when it’s convenient for me.
  5. I hold the outcome in the Light of God, give thanks, and visualize what I want. God I give this situation to you to the highest good of all involved. What do you want me to do?
  6. I take action in the direction of the choices I’ve made. If needed, I plan my additional steps. I listen for God’s guidance and directions.
  7. I affirm my choice and accept it. God is telling me to go to sleep and handle the situation in the morning. There is no urgency in spirit. Seasoning things overnight is always a good plan.
  8. I give it to God by either placing my problem in an imaginary goblet and offering it up to Him with arms outstretched or by getting on my hands and knees and giving it to Him. Thank you God for taking this off my plate.
  9. I ask myself, Where could I put my mind that’s not on this?
  10. In this instance, I go to bed, read for a few minutes, and turn out the light.
  11. I thank God. Thank you God for taking care of me.

 

 

Now if I call the person back and then they react negatively to my not being there for them originally, a slightly modified Process Four (that I developed for my teaching life) helps me out: not in TOC

 

  • Don’t take it personally.
  • Don’t react.
  • Stick to business and take care of yourself.
  • Think before you speak.
  • This too shall pass.
  • Let it go.

 

 

Working the Principles to Overcome Selfishness

 

I think one of the biggest things that has helped me overcome all of my defects, but especially my selfishness, is working the 12 Spiritual Principles and their corresponding steps.

 

Honesty: I become honest with myself and admit that I’m powerless over whatever the situation is, or even over my selfishness. I also have to be honest with myself about how I feel, what my needs are, and how I’m going to make sure they are met.

Faith: I have faith that God is there, that He is all powerful, and that He cares for me. I also have faith that He knows how I feel and He can help me with the situation.

Surrender: I give my life, my will, the situation, and my selfishness over to Him.

Soul searching: I do an inventory of how I’m feeling, what I’ve done in the situation, and why. If I’m being selfish in the situation, I need to recognize that. If I’m feeling depleted and need to take care of myself, I need to recognize that too.

Integrity: I tell God and my sponsor how I’m feeling, what I’ve done and why.

Acceptance: I accept myself, what I’ve done and my selfishness, if it is an active factor in said situation, as it is. If I am just taking care of myself and am justified in doing so, then I may still feel selfish because that is my habit, my training, especially if the person is opposed to me taking care of myself over them. Either way, just accepting how I feel and what’s going on is such a huge relief. Suddenly the pressure is off. I just feel better about myself, my world, and my place in it. It’s okay. I’m dealing with what is. This is me.

Humility: This is the principle that helps the most with my selfishness. There is a God, it is not me. I am not in charge. I am here to do God’s will, not my own. Then I humbly ask God to show me if I’m being selfish or just taking care of myself. I ask Him to show me what He wants me to do about it.

Willingness: I am willing to admit I’ve made mistakes, hurt people if that is the case here. I am willing to make plans to make amends, even if those amends are a change in my behavior. That counts as an amends.

Forgiveness: Then I forgive myself and others for everything that has occurred in the situation at hand. I forgive myself for whatever actions my selfishness has had on others. I forgive them for whatever it is I think they’ve done to me.

Perseverance: I keep working my program, working on myself, and do a daily inventory of my behaviors during the day. When I’m wrong, I admit it. This still is not easy for me, but I do it.

Making contact (spirituality): Worship through prayer, meditation, bible study, and a constant contact with God all help me get rid of my selfishness because I’ve placed God at the center of my life.
Service: Nothing like service work to remind me that it’s not all about me. It’s all about God and what he wants. It’s about reaching out to others in need and sharing my recovery. That is me getting out of my selfishness and into a place of compassion and care.

Simplicity: I keep my life simple, with God at the center of my world. I live my life with clarity of purpose focused on God and what He wants, not what I want.

 

The principles are vital to my recovery from my selfishness. I will continue to work them and apply them to my life. Thanks be to God, I am grateful.

 

[1] Adapted from the Family of Origin packet materials provided by the Sequoia Recovery Center.

[2] Ibid.

Selfishness

Selfishness

I have done step work around my selfishness, dug through my issues, and have thrown a good portion of my selfishness in the garbage. However, there is still a little bit left. So I can still be a selfish person sometimes. Selfishness continues to be one of my defects of character.

 

To me, selfish means that I only care about me and what I want. What other people want, need, or feel is not an issue. It’s all about me.

 

So when could I be excessively concerned about myself, while not considering the well-being of others?

  1. When I get ticked off that the early morning lifeguard at the pool is late. In this instance, I am upset that my swim is going to get cut short because I have to get to work.
  2. When I’m behind someone slow, either in the car or in the checkout line at the store. Usually I’m in a hurry, either because I am running late, or I have somewhere else I would rather be.
  3. My inner critic accuses me of being selfish for not answering the phone when I’m in the middle of doing something else. I don’t have to listen to his lies. The truth is that letting the machine get the phone and calling the person back later is how I take care of myself. That’s not selfish.
  4. When I get ticked off inside at a child for quitting class. Deep down part of me is upset that they’re quitting because it will make my class numbers look low, which will make me look like a bad teacher. Maybe it’s actually in the best interest of the student to quit.
  5. When I rush past an elderly, struggling person, instead of holding the door for them or helping them. I used to do that, but I don’t anymore. I always try to help them.
  6. When a family emergency or event threatens to interrupt whatever it is that I wanted to be doing in my life. I usually obsess about this until the situation gets resolved.

 

 

Selfish or Practicing Self-Care?

 

Now I can look at the above list in two ways. I can look at it as if all of the items mark me as being selfish. I can also look at it like all of the items on the list are times when I just feel selfish. Or a third option is that it could be a little of each.

 

I think there’s a difference between actually being selfish and feeling selfish. In some instances, I probably am selfish. In some other instances, I’m just taking care of myself but I feel selfish. This is my codependency talking. As a young person, I was reprimanded for doing what I needed to do to take care of myself. So I learned that putting myself before others was wrong. So now whenever I put myself first, I feel selfish.

 

Let’s go through the six scenarios.

 

 

 

 

 

A Closer Look

 

  1. The pool issue: The opening time for the pool is supposed to be at 6:00 am, not 6:05, 6:15 or 6:30, but 6:00 o’clock in the morning. I don’t think that is me being selfish. I have to be at work at a certain time. If I’m late, people are waiting for me. Business is business.

 

  1. Slow people and the hurried Juliet: I think this is largely a patience problem that has already been addressed. I think this is an instance where most of the time I just feel selfish. I do wait in line with everyone else, even though inside I could be feeling incredibly impatient. I do usually drive safely even behind a slow driver, despite the fact that I’m trying to control the situation by whining and yelling inside the car.

 

If I’m obviously huffing and puffing in the line at a Cumberland Farms convenience store, that is probably not very nice of me. If I rudely cut in front of someone in line, that would be selfish. That would be me putting my well-being ahead of everyone else, no matter what. The other people are often in a hurry to get somewhere else too.

 

  1. The phone: Let’s say someone I know calls me, and they are in a bad way and really need a friend. If I don’t pick up the phone and talk to them, even though I have time, that is me being selfish. If, on the other hand, they’re calling at a late hour, when I’m working or busy, then by not answering, I am taking care of myself. Program is teaching me that I matter and I must take care of myself before I take care of others.

 

  1. Students quitting class: If a student stops taking my class and I’m upset because it makes my student roster look too small, that is me being selfish. I need to put the student’s well-being ahead of my own. If it’s better for the child to stop studying the instrument, then that’s what is most important. If I’m upset because they’re quitting and I feel it’s in their best interest to keep playing their instrument, then saying something is me looking out for them. That’s good. That is compassion and care.

 

  1. Rushing by those in need: If I rush by people who may need my assistance without helping them, that’s selfish of me. It only takes a minute to hold the door for someone. It only takes a minute to hold the door for someone and smile at them while you’re doing it. A few years ago, my sponsor gave me the assignment to smile and say hello to everyone I saw in the hallway. I still do that. It really helps me to feel happier.

 

  1. Schedule and priority conflicts: I think the scheduling and priority conflicts that we deal with in relation to our family of origin can be some of the toughest conflicts for anyone to face. I know they are for me. When a family crisis occurs, I think I need to do my best to be there for my family as much as I am able. But I don’t have to fix whatever it going on. Most of the time, I can’t fix it anyway. By crisis I mean someone is ill, has been in an accident, or has passed away. I’m sure more crises exist, but those are some amongst many that I’ve dealt with. I think what holds true here is exactly what holds true with the phone. If I’m able and available, I need to be there for my family. If, on the other hand, they are contacting me when I’m asleep, need to be working, or otherwise busy at something important, then by not answering the phone I’m taking care of myself.

 

 

As you can see, my selfishness is a defect of character that still needs some work. I need to focus my efforts on ridding myself of selfishness in regards to being behind slow people, whether I’m in line at the store, or behind a vehicle on the road. I need to work on my selfishness in regards to the pool schedule and its inconsistencies. Everyone is doing the best they can and I can go get on the treadmill if the pool is closed. I need to keep working on my selfishness in regards to schedule and priority conflicts. Sometimes there are things that are more important than what I am doing for myself. For example, if I’m supposed to meet someone somewhere and I keep them waiting because I want to finish what I’m working on (like a lesson plan or a section of this book, for example,), then that is selfish of me. When a student quits, I must remember to consider their needs and what is best for them above my own. The needs of the student are the most important thing. That is me letting go of selfishness.

 

I heard in a CoDA meeting that a person gets on their knees first thing in the morning and asks God to remove all selfishness from them for the day. What would that look like? I should do that.

Pride

 

He was telling me

Get your ego out of the way

Music, art and book

Are for you to heal yourself

Heal yourself so you can be a better teacher

Teach from the center of who you are

 

~ He Was Telling Me by Juliet A. Wright

copyright 2013, all rights reserved

 

 

I sometimes struggle with pride. I want people to respect me. I want to get what I think I deserve.

 

To me, pride means that I want to be noticed by others and important to myself and other people. I want to matter.

 

My pride often rears its ugly head when I’m at work. When this happens, I want to be heard, recognized, respected, obeyed, honored, noticed, and loved. I want my students to follow directions and do it my way. My pride leads me to want control over my situation and others.

 

Sometimes I feel like the universe is telling me to swallow my pride, humble myself, submit, be obedient, stick my head in the sand, and just deal with it. My inner child doesn’t like that. She did that her whole life. She feels like she works hard and wants to be recognized. She wants to be right, loved, justified, and perfect.

 

Usually I start feeling like this when I’m working too hard and not taking care of myself. I start losing track of where I end and my job begins. My job and I become intertwined and pretty soon I think I’m my job. This happened to me last fall, when school was at its busiest. What follows is an account of one of those terribly hectic weeks and how I came to resolve this pride issue inside of myself.

 

 

I’m Not My Job 

 

I’m not my job. I do the best I can but I’m a separate person from my job. I must remember that. I am a beloved child of God just because I exist. I’m not my actions; I’m me, I’m soul. I’m not just emotions and human ego. There is that of God in me somewhere. On my better days, it shines through.

I’m not my job. It doesn’t define who I am. It’s something I do. I put food on my table, a roof over my head, and pay my exorbitant property taxes. I do the best I can. Thank you, God.

 

I am distressed because I have had a really rough week at work and my ego is feeling bruised. First of all, I got an email from a teacher at a local music school that upset me. In this email, the teacher asked questions about how I teach notation. She said she was trying to figure out how to help my students. She wondered at what point they learn letter names and finger numbers from me. I emailed her back and told her that I teach in solfeggio. When one teaches in solfeggio (solfege for short,) syllables are used to stand for notes of the scale. These syllables allow music students to sing their parts. This is a very effective way to teach young children because if they can sing it, they can play it. This also helps them learn to read it.

 

The parent emailed me too and asked me to teach her child in a certain way. She said that if I needed help she knew someone who could teach me how to teach notation. Give me a break. That was definitely an ego bruiser.

 

I felt very threatened by this email. I felt less than, like a failure and a bad teacher. I felt like I had no worth because I was bad at my job. I felt like I should quit.

 

The second blow to my pride came later that same week when I received an upsetting email from a parent. This parent failed to read all of the paperwork I had sent, and thus misread and misunderstood the class schedule. The email the parent sent me was abrupt, and it scolded me for misrepresenting the who, what, when, and where of the fall strings schedule. Somewhere in-between email responses and replies, this parent must have been set straight by someone or something, because she did apologize later. My email reply to her was a simple “thank you,” because I didn’t know what else to say.

 

Still, I felt very beaten up and was crying on my way home from work that day. Anytime someone points the proverbial finger in my face and says “you said,” I feel blamed. That hurts.

 

When school is first getting started, parents can be very demanding. They want information from me at all hours of the day and night. They want things to be right for their child and they want to know where they need to be when. I get that. But I’m busting my tail to get the information out there to them and then they get upset about it. Would they rather I not say anything? Maybe I should just stop communicating.

 

Why do I work so hard? Why do I do it? It’s because of the kids. I do it for the kids. My students are wonderful, cool, fun people and I like them a lot. I owe it to them to go to work every day and do my best. I owe it to them to teach them, develop their playing, and to bring out the good in them. The kids are the best part of this whole business. They are why I get up and go to work every day. I must remember that.

 

When I get overtired, depressed, and discouraged, I tend to look at things all wrong. I look through the eyes of my tired, less-than self and try to find something I did right so I can feel good about myself. This is me getting my worth from my job and what I do. This is Satan tempting me to be prideful. My pride wants me to look good and be glorified to feed my sagging ego.

 

But this isn’t about me. It’s about me being a vehicle for God’s will and doing the job he has asked me to do. The only thing that matters is that He be glorified. If God is glorified by what I do, then I’ve done my job.

 

I need to humble myself before God and what He wants me to do in this life.

 

I prayed about this on the way home that day. During that time, God told me some things, including:

  • “Your book and your music are the thing, Juliet, don’t forget that.”
  • “Dream God’s dream.”

During this time, I recited a favorite bible verse:

 

“Lead me to the rock that is higher than I.”

~ Psalm 61: 2 (NIV)

 

 

And look at how I got permissions from CoDA to use their steps, traditions, and promises in my book. That is God talking to me. That is God reaffirming that it’s what he wants me to do.

 

I am a beloved child of God just because of me. I don’t get my self-worth from my job. My job is something I do. I have worth because He made me. He has a job for me to do. I will take off the coat of pride, put on the sweater of humility, and will do what God wants me to do to the best of my ability.

 

Additional practices I engage in when I’m struggling with my pride: 

  • Worship: Talking to God through consistent morning prayers and meditation is necessary for me to remember that it’s not about me and what I want, it’s about God and what He wants. I need to be alone with God every morning to listen for His voice and serve Him better.
  • Journaling: I journal every morning to get the pride, ego, and control issues out of me and into the open so they can be dealt with.
  • Exercise: Working out on my punching bag, swimming, walking on my treadmill or in Hopkins Forest, and lifting weights all help me to get anger, resentment, and selfish human pride out of the way so I can be God’s servant.
  • Time with my inner child: Often when I’m feeling unimportant, less than, worthless, or unappreciated, it’s because I’m ignoring my inner child and not meeting her needs. To remedy this, I spend time visioning with my inner child. During this time, I watch her in my vision and listen for what she needs and wants. Then I try to give her what she wants and needs. This helps me immensely.
  • Scripture: Reading the bible every morning helps me to remember that God is in charge of my life. He must come first and is giving me guidance on what to do.
  • Constant God connection: I pray as much as I can throughout the day. This includes morning and evening prayers on my knees, silent prayers, and listening for His direction throughout my day.
  • Read the daily list: I read my list of defects of character to God every morning and humbly ask him to remove them if and when He is ready. Pride is on that list.
  • Submission: When God gives me a message, instructions, or assignments, I try to do them, whether I want to do them or not. I trust that He knows what’s best for me more than I do. I do my best.
  • Slogans: I repeat my favorite slogans, such as “There is a God, it is not me,” “I can’t, God can, I think I’ll let Him,” “Willingness is key,” “This too shall pass,” and “Just for today.” Repeating the slogans really helps me relax.

 

 

 

 

 

Don’t React in the Classroom 

The next lesson in not reacting happened with a boy in my classroom.

 

A parent emailed me and told me that her son, we’ll call him Louis, was on an Individual Education Plan (an education plan specifically designed for a child by his education team) and struggled in cello class. She said that her son felt he was behind everyone else in my class and that he felt singled out by me. I guess he felt picked on. The parent said she didn’t know if this were true or not and that she was not there to see it. She also said that she and her husband had had enough of the crying fits that would go on the night before cello class. So she was returning the cello and thanked me for everything I had done for her son.

 

I took this in as blame. Again, I wanted to react. All of Juliet’s Codependency Patterns and Feelings as listed earlier were hard at work, hammering away at me.

 

Louis had come in for his group cello class earlier on the day that I received his mother’s email. He was upset and on edge when he walked in the room. He remained that way for the whole lesson, despite my efforts to appease him, praise him, and create a comfortable, positive environment. He left upset as well. I was upset by this and was doubly upset when I received his mother’s email.

 

Once again, the old Juliet wanted to email that parent, get in front of the student, get on my knees, and beg for forgiveness. But I didn’t do that. I took a time-out. I gave it to God and “seasoned” it overnight. Seasoning is a Quaker term that basically means to give the issue at hand over to God for a length of time to see what He wants to do about it. So that’s what I did.

 

Again, I started by chanting my mantras:

  • Time out!
  • I will not react.
  • I will wait for God’s guidance.

 

I repeated them over and over.

 

I went upstairs to my altar and contacted my inner child, inner teen, and Christ. In short, I gave the situation to my team (the child, teen, and Christ), and they told me what they wanted me to do. Then I spent time in prayer about it. I asked Christ to write the email for me. I prayed for Louis.

 

In the middle of the night, I woke up and realized that God was teaching me not to react. That was, once again, my lesson in all of this.

 

Once again I did not react. I did not respond to the email until Monday. I had received the parent’s email on a Friday afternoon. (I’ve noticed that I have been getting emails on Friday afternoons as tests and lessons in not reacting.)
When I did email the parent, it was a nice, balanced, truthful email. I have not heard from her.

 

I did not react. I passed the test.

 

 

Then I gave myself a pep talk:

  • I’m human.
  • I make mistakes
  • If I’m wrong, I promptly admit it.
  • I apologize.
  • I’m doing the best I can.
  • I have to let it go because I’m doing the best I can.
  • I’m not responsible for their feelings.
  • I have feelings too, I’m human.
  • I have to turn it over, every time.

 

The next Thursday, after I had responded to his mother’s email, I saw Louis in the hallway and made amends to him.

“I’m so sorry if you felt like I singled you out,” I told him. “I had no idea you felt that way and did not intend to do that. I think you were doing fine in class and were keeping up with everyone just fine. I’m so sorry.”

“It’s okay,” he said, looking in my eyes.

“Well, I just wanted to say I’m sorry and if you ever want to come back, you’re more than welcome.”

 

“Okay, thank you.”

 

He was looking into my eyes and I felt like he was really sincere.

 

These lessons are very, very painful. But they must be necessary or God wouldn’t keep giving them to me. Either I will pass the test or I won’t. I want to pass the test. I’m trying hard to pass the test. In fact, I’m sure God will keep giving me the test until I pass it.

 

Then I realized that I needed to go back to my mantras and processes for life that I outlined in my first book.

Using the process I described in my first book, I helped myself heal.
In Everything Is My Fault, this process is included in “Juliet’s Mantras,” in a bulleted list, and for this occasion, I will plug in some comments related to the situation with the student I am calling Louis (note: not all the mantras are listed here):

 

  • It’s not my fault.
  • This has nothing to do with me. This is about his process, not mine.
  • Go do something that makes you happy.
  • Work on your tunes.
  • I’m doing the best I can in this moment to nurture my career and myself.
  • When I’m feeling emotional, I can make an excuse and walk around the school, or at least leave the room and breathe in and out.
  • I am clear and upfront in my communication.
  • Be patient.
  • Take care of yourself.
  • Get out with your woman friends.
  • I do things because I want to make myself happy, not to gain approval from someone else.
  • I need boundaries with all folks, especially students and parents.
  • What is the karmic opportunity here? What can I learn from this?
    • I’m not in charge here.
    • Stay in the moment.
    • This is not my problem to fix.[1]

 

I then realized that the issue here may be the inner teen and what she’s going through with this. Then I did some inner teen work, similar to the work described in “The Inner Child and Doris” section of “Recovery and the Inner Child.”

 

Later that week I ran into a fellow teaching colleague from another district who gave me some much needed advice on getting the necessary information to meet the needs of all of the students in my classroom. She also gave me some helpful tips on contacting parents right away when things happen in the classroom, to circumvent the storytelling that can happen after the child gets home. This was great advice.

 

Then I wrote my gratitude poem that is in the front of this book. That is me taking my gratitude list one step further. That is me in recovery. Everything that happens is for my recovery.

 

Let’s plug Processes One and Two into my “Don’t React in the Classroom” Incident.

 

We’ll start with Process One:

 

  1. I consciously breathe in and out slowly. Breathing with awareness brings me back to the present moment. It gives me an automatic time-out.
  2. I become aware of what I’m doing.
  3. I ask myself, What’s going on in my body, feelings, and brain?

Body: Tense, heart-racing, sweating, starting to panic

Feelings: I am bad, I hurt someone, blaming myself, shame, hurt, panicked like I have to fix it

Brain: My brain says I am a bad teacher and I hurt this child. That it is my fault that he is quitting and I need to do better and be more perfect.

  1. If possible, I write down the information and journal about how I’m feeling.

I feel sad, like I’m bad, shame, I hurt, panicked like I have to fix it

  1. I pray for the willingness to accept the situation and information as it is. Dear God, help me to be willing to accept the situation with Louis as it is.
  2. I pray for acceptance of the situation. Dear God, help me to accept the situation with Louis as it is. Heal me, Lord.
  3. I admit powerlessness over said problem. Dear God, I am powerless over Louis and his future in my class.
  4. Then I become willing to feel my feelings. I feel sad, bad, shameful. I’m feeling panic too, like I have to go fix Louis and save him from hurting.
  5. I pray for God to help me with the pain I feel inside. Dear God, heal me from this pain I feel inside.
  6. I put a note in my God Box about it.
  7. Where can I put my mind that is not on this? I go do something else.
  8. The something else lately has been me playing music on my violin, viola, cello, and guitar when I feel despair coming on or am in the middle of the CoDA crazies. Playing music gets me relaxed, calm, breathing, and balanced. In the later section titled “Music for Recovery (The Healing Power of Music),” I discuss the genres of music I play in more detail.
  9. I have to remember that God doesn’t make junk. I am a beloved child of God just the way I am. I don’t have to do anything to be okay. I am okay just because I’m me. I must never forget that. I am a worthwhile person just because I exist.
  10. From now on, I will try and get the IEPs of my students ahead of time so I am better prepared to meet their needs. I will also wait before responding to parents and students. I will not react. I will pray and give it to God too. He will help.
  11. Even if I am not able get my hands on an IEP or by accident react to a student instead of waiting, I am still okay. I’m still a good person. I am a beloved child of God. I can always talk to God about it. He’ll help me.
  12. Take myself to Tanglewood: I take myself there in my mind. If I’m not near my Tanglewood picture, I use my cross ring as an anchor to remind myself to go to Tanglewood in my mind. It helps me relax.

 

 

After I go through Process One, I proceed to Process Two — Make a Plan:

 

  1. I recheck my anxiety level. How am I feeling? Better, less sad, less panicked, more relaxed
  2. I breathe big and deep.
  3. What is the information? Louis is quitting and his mother says he feels singled out.
  4. What are my choices? I can sit here and obsess and feel awful about myself, or I can realize I’ve done the best I can in all that I’ve done about the situation and let it go.
  5. I hold the outcome in the Light of God, give thanks, and visualize what I want. Dear God, I give you Louis and the situation with cello class to the highest good of all involved. Thank you God for taking this off my plate and fixing it for me. I imagine Louis happy and living his life.
  6. I take action in the direction of the choices I’ve made. If needed, I plan my additional steps. I’ve done all I can. I give this to God and let it go.
  7. I affirm my choice and accept it. I’ve done all I can. I give this to God and let it go.
  8. I give it to God by either placing my problem in an imaginary goblet and offering it up to God with arms outstretched or by getting on my hands and knees and giving it to Him. Dear God, here I give you Louis and cello class and his mother to the highest good of all involved. May your will be done.
  9. I ask myself, Where could I put my mind that’s not on this?
  10. I go play my instruments, write a song, work on my book, or do some painting.
  11. I thank God.

 

The critical first step that has helped me the most in recovering from being a reactionary is chanting my mantras:

 

  • Time out!
  • I will not react.
  • I will wait for God’s guidance.

 

Then I follow my processes. This works for me and I am recovering. Thank you God for these lessons and this progress.

 

[1] Wright, Juliet. Everything Is My Fault. Pownal, VT: Hidden Angel Publishing, page 286.

Don’t React to Your Friend – Twice!

 

This lesson was so strong that I got it twice in a row, with the same person.

 

This happened with my friend Doris, who I wrote about in “Recovery in Friendships,” and in my first book, in a section titled “Doris.” This was a painful experience for me.

This was also a lesson in not reacting and it was a lesson that I passed. I received an upsetting email from Doris and I did not react. I did not respond right away. I prayed about it and contacted my inner teen. God said I didn’t have to do anything about it, so I didn’t. That doesn’t mean it was easy. There was a big part of the old Juliet deep down in there that wanted to go shamefully crawling back to my long-time friend, blubbering all the way, stating how “less than” I was, and begging forgiveness. I was really hurting.

 

That has been my training from my family for most of my life and I was an excellent student. But I did not react. I clung to the words and voice of God for dear life and listened. This was difficult, laborious, and emotionally exhausting for me, but I got through it. God told me not to respond to the email, so I didn’t.

 

A couple of weeks later, I got another email from her, which was an attempt to tell me how she felt about things. I felt my heart start to race as I read the email. None of it felt positive. I took it all in as blame. As I read it, I felt like I was being put through a paper shredder. My heart chakra felt really uncomfortable. Panic was setting in. It didn’t feel good. I felt the CoDA crazies coming on. I was in trouble.

 

All of Juliet’s Codependency Patterns and Feelings that are listed above were in action inside my brain.

 

I wanted to react by emailing right away, just as I wanted to with the student, in an endless apology, begging forgiveness so I could feel better about my pitiful self.

 

I started once again by chanting my mantras:

  • Time out!
  • I will not react.
  • I will wait for God’s guidance.

 

I repeated them over and over.

 

Thanks be to my loving, all powerful, merciful God. He got me out of that chair at my computer and sent me upstairs to my altar. I contacted the inner child and the inner teen. The details of the contact with my inner child and inner teen are presented in further detail in “The Inner Child and Doris” section of “Recovery and the Inner Child” later in this book.

 

The short version that I will present here is that I asked the child, the teen, and Christ what to do and they told me. They told the how, when, and what regarding my email to her. I followed directions and did that. I thought it was a nice email.  Summing it up, I asked for space from her. It was really difficult for me to do this, but I did what God wanted me to do. In the end, as tough as this process was, I felt relief — a huge amount of relief.

 

Then I got on Facebook and saw part of her post. The trailer indicated she was devastated by something, but then you had to click on it to find out the details. I didn’t click on it. I didn’t take the bait. I didn’t react. Yea me! It was tough. My heart was beating and I felt like I was bad. I had been bad and was hurting her and it was all my fault. I was mean. This was my inner critic once again giving me grief. The good news is that I did not react. I told my inner critic to be quiet and I got the heck out of there. I stopped following her on Facebook and eventually defriended her.

 

This was a good decision for me and for my inner child. We feel much safer.

 

A few weeks later, I got another group email post from her. I was away at the American String Teachers Association Conference in Utah at the time. The subject line referred to the dark, rough time she was going through. This email came late on a Friday night, just as so many of them had. This was a lesson in not reacting. I felt panic run through my body. I did not feel safe and neither did my inner child. I stopped. I breathed in and out. I called a program friend for support. She stayed on the phone with me as I deleted the email. I know this was what God wanted me to do. This was my lesson. After all, what else could I do? It seemed to me that I could never do anything right in this person’s eyes. Anything I did got criticized. Reacting would have no doubt had bad, painful consequences. I followed the directions from God and am better off. I did not react. Good for me.