Low Self-Esteem

And what is she? What is she?

She is hopeless

A loser

Out of her mind.

 

~ Beloved by Juliet A. Wright

copyright 2005, all rights reserved

 

I still struggle with the defect of low self-esteem. The good news is that I’m slowly ridding myself of this defect. I feel much better about myself today than I did in the past. I’m beginning to see my worth as a person. I’m a worthwhile, lovable person just because I am a child of God. I can love myself just because of that.
Sometimes, however, I still get down on myself and tie my self-worth to what I accomplish in a day, how hard I work, how well my books sell, how many students I have, what other people think of me, and how I look.

 

What really affects me is what my students and their parents think of me. Making mistakes with, disappointing, or losing students is very, very hard on my self-esteem. I beat myself up endlessly when such incidents occur and really have to work my program to recover.

 

Process Four really helps me to stay centered and balanced in the classroom.

 

 

Let’s revisit Process Four:

 

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

 

  • Don’t take it personally: I learned this from my therapist. Anything that anyone says to me is about them, even if it sounds like it’s about me. This helps me realize that I didn’t do anything intentionally wrong to hurt someone. They’re telling me about them.

 

  • Don’t react: I live in a world of reactors. I have been guilty of this myself. I get input from someone and blurt out whatever I’m feeling at the moment. The right thing for me to do is to stop, consider the situation, and say nothing, until I’m sure about what they said, what happened, and how I feel about it. This also helps me to keep my self-esteem up because it prevents me from saying and doing things that I’ll regret later.

 

  • Stick to business and just teach music: So after I have restrained myself from reacting to whatever a person said or did, I just stick to business and teach music. That is why I’m there. Juliet needs to do her job. That also helps build my self-esteem because I’m doing what I’m supposed to do.

 

  • Think before you speak: I need to think before I speak. This is related to don’t react, but it is helpful for me to have it as a separate step to remind myself to do it. What I say matters in the classroom and there are lots of little ears engaged. I need to be careful to say what God wants me to say, not what I want to say. Being in a constant state of prayer helps me to think before I speak.

 

  • This too shall pass: I have placed this slogan here because sometimes things are said and done in the classroom and on email by parents that are very hurtful to me. I have to remind myself that the moment and the hurt will not last forever. God will get me through it.

 

  • Let it go: This slogan is here because after I have experienced whatever hurtful verbal or email comment or criticism that occurred, and have reminded myself that this too shall pass, then it’s time for me to let it go. I put it in my imaginary beautiful goblet and offer it up to God. Then I move on.

 

 

I say these steps as mantras to myself whenever I need to during my workday or any other time. They help me get my center back and help me focus on God.

 

Another activity I engage in that helps me to stay centered on God is reading scripture at lunchtime. I have scripture written on index cards in a bag in my purse. I read scripture during my lunch break while I eat. This really helps me recover from whatever may have just gone on in the classroom by getting my focus back on God. Knowing that I have a loving, merciful God who cares about me and is sovereign over my life improves my self-esteem. I know I’m not charge, I don’t have to control or fix it, and I’m worthwhile because God loves me.

 

Deep down I am truly beginning to realize that I have worth as a person just because I exist. We all do. We all have worth. We are all worthy of God’s love, regardless of who we are or what we have or haven’t done. We are all equal in the eyes of God.
I used to get my self-worth from the promise of a successful music career. I’ll be a worthy person when I achieve success in music. As I look under the carpet of my past, I find my dream of commercial musical success trampled and crumpled like a dirty gum wrapper that flew out of my pocket, landed on the ground, and was never thrown away. I wanted that musical success for a very long time. Now I know that probably isn’t going to happen for me, at least not the way that I thought I wanted it. This self-pronounced failure gave me low self-esteem for a long time. I’ve failed. I didn’t get there. I didn’t make it. I don’t matter.

Thanks to recovery I now have a different outlook on the music I make in my life. Now I’m writing and playing my music to heal myself. I share it with others in case it might help them to heal. That is the God in me speaking to the God in them. I like that. Thank you, God. Under the carpet near the gum wrapper, there is the old Juliet who got her self-worth from her musical success. So when she failed, she wasn’t worth anything as a person. We can throw that self-image in the recycle bin and fix it right up. Juliet is a beloved child of God just because she is herself.

Next to that crumpled gum wrapper from under the carpet that represents my tortured music career are small pieces of a muffin that dropped while I was eating breakfast and changing violin strings at the same time. These pieces of muffin represent the Juliet who used to get her self-worth from the men in her love-life. Let’s throw that in the garbage too.

I used to think I was only worthy if a man loved me at that moment. For most of my adult life, that was Alex. So when our marriage failed, I thought I had no worth. The soul searching and step work I have done on that relationship has helped me heal from the related pain and relieved me of those misconceptions. I am grateful to God for this healing and learning. Thank you, God.
I definitely take some of my self-worth from what I look like. When I was younger, my relying on this source of worth was worse. I was supposed to look great all the time when I was young. Above all, I was supposed to be thin. This was fueled by my parents’ expectations and, later, a career in Hollywood. I still take some of my self-worth from what I look like, but it’s not nearly as severe as it used to be. Moving out of Hollywood and back to Vermont really helped me with this. I know that I’m a good person underneath it all and that won’t change with 5 pounds of fat, 5 pounds of makeup or a lack thereof. I’m a perfect child of God just the way I am. Despite aging, I really like how I look. That’s a huge step forward for me. That’s recovery.

 

Workaholism

Workaholism

 

Addie, don’t you think of lettin’ me down

I’m counting on you

To do your best and keep your feet on the ground

Oh

Don’t let me down

Get to spinning

Forget your dancin’

You’re always too slow

Oh,

Don’t let me down

 

~ Don’t Let Me Down from Fearless Moral Inventory by Juliet A. Wright copyright 2008, all rights reserved

 

 

Workaholism is still a major defect of mine. I learned it from my family of origin. I was only worth what I achieved. If I failed, I had no self-worth. Part of me still believes this.

 

It’s very difficult for me to stop working. I still work too late and feel like I failed if I don’t achieve the daily goals that I set out to accomplish. Even if I’m past tired, I still go on, and beat a dead horse until I’m just about sobbing. Gee whiz, Juliet! Give yourself a break.

 

Sometimes good things come out of it when I stretch myself. For example, there have been nights when I’ve been too tired to keep working, but I went ahead and wrote more of my book or recorded one of my CoDA meetings on tape. In these times, good things have come out of my work. I believe God alone has gotten me to do this work to the betterment of myself.
At other times, I have let my workaholism get a hold of me and yet I accomplish nothing. I can’t play a right note on my violin, the words aren’t coming, and the vacuum is clogging up. At these moments I know I probably was not listening to God’s guidance suggesting I call it a day.

 

My workaholism is at its worst when school is in session and I’m busy teaching during the week. I teach long hours, have a long commute, and often come home too late to do any of my creative work. I have CoDA meetings two days a week after work also, which affects my available creative time at home (don’t get me wrong, my meetings are a must, and are well worth it, even if I’m the only one there at times). During the school year, I work myself to death on the weekends on my practicing, working on my book, service for my Co-Dependents Anonymous groups, handling my Hidden Angel business, and addressing leftover schoolwork. So when Saturday comes around, I really try to get a lot done. I always work too late, eat too late, get to bed too late. Then I’m tired for Quaker Meeting on Sunday morning. This way of life has become a habit. I need to fix this. I need to cut some things out. But what?

 

One of the gifts of recovery for me is that I’ve learned that I am a beloved child of God regardless of what I get done in a day. I am loveable just because I’m me. I can say those words now. I have positive affirmations that I have said over and over again that have taught me this. I know it as a truth that I don’t have to work to earn God’s love.

 

But deep down part of me still doesn’t fully believe this. That is the part that kick-starts my workaholism. This is the part of me that remembers what Mom and Dad taught me about earning my worth and thus their love.

 

But thanks to the hard work I’ve done in program, I can now remember and say the words that I’m a beloved child of God regardless of what I accomplish. That is so reassuring to me. That produces serenity in my soul. That is recovery.

 

The other side of the coin is that I have a lot I want to accomplish. I believe that God has put me on this earth as a codependent to help myself and others who suffer from the disease of codependency. I think it is my book and music that are the vehicles through which I can heal myself and reach out to others. I want to be busy doing God’s work.

 

So whenever I’m not working on my book or my music, I think I’m not doing God’s will and that’s bad. I’m being disobedient to God. So then I think I have to go work myself to death to make up for it. That is my workaholism coming after me. I don’t think God thinks I’m being disobedient. I think he knows I’m doing the best that I can. Now if I’m sitting here playing on the computer instead of doing my work, that’s a different story. Then I need to get myself in gear and get my work done.

 

When I’m battling my workaholism and losing, what I need to do is surrender it all to God. When I’m exhausted from working all day, it’s time to stop, my work is not yet finished, and I’m tying my self-worth into the completion of my task, that is when I need to surrender. And when I feel like I can’t do that, I have to pray for the willingness to be willing to surrender. I have to ask God for the power to stop working. I have to move away from the computer, put down the violin, put the pile of unfolded clothes on the floor (okay I can’t imagine myself ever doing that… they will get folded), and stop. Just stop. The office is closed. The door is locked. Time to go home, so to speak. It means me abandoning my work because it is 9:40 at night and it’s time to stop. It’s realizing that whatever I did, it is enough for tonight.

 

Therefore, part of me has bid farewell to the Juliet who ties her self-worth to what she gets accomplished in a day. I want all of me to say good-bye to that version of myself. It’s not the true refection in the mirror. The true reflection in the mirror is that I am a beloved child of God regardless of what I get done in a day. I do not have to work myself to death every minute in order to earn the right to be.

 

So when necessary, I pray for the willingness to be willing to stop and say, “I’ve done enough.” I give it to God. I ask God for the willingness to stop working and move away from the computer. Besides, there’s always tomorrow. This is spiritual progress for me to be able to say this. I can do more tomorrow. That is growth. That is recovery.

 

Positive Affirmations:

  • I do my best and let go and let God.
  • I allow myself ample leisure time, without feeling guilty.
  • I stop working at a decent hour.
  • I am a beloved child of God regardless of what I get done in a day.

Additional practices that help me when I’m practicing my workaholism:

  • Talk to my sponsor: My sponsor knows me very well, and she is aware that my workaholism is one my biggest defects. She knows that it’s at the root of who I am and the source of many of my struggles. She’s very good at reminding me of this and pointing me towards my recovery tools. She will often tell me to take a break and go sit in my chair near the brook (a favorite spot of mine).
  • Step work: I get out the step work I’ve done with my sponsor and the notes I’ve taken during our conversations and read them when I’m in the middle of a workaholic attack. Reading the work I’ve done on the principles is especially helpful when I’m struggling with this defect.
  • Program literature: Reading the 12 Promises, 12 Steps, and 12 Traditions of Co-Dependents Anonymous really helps me to relax and accept myself the way that I am. Doing this helps to relieve me of the idea that I have to be busy at every moment.
  • Gratitude list: Reading my gratitude list helps bring me back to a place where I realize how wonderful my life is and that, regardless of whatever is causing me to get down on myself, I can sit back and realize that everything is really okay.
  • Reading: I love reading in bed. It is a treat that can lure me away from working when it’s time to stop. The promise of reading in bed gets me away from whatever I’m working on and into the wonderful world of literature. It works every time.
  • Movies: I put a movie into my DVD player, get some of my favorite food, and relax for a little bit.
  • Slogans: I repeat my favorite slogans, such as “Easy does it,” “This too shall pass,” “Act as if,” “Let go and let God,” “Turn it over” and “There is always tomorrow.” Repeating the slogans really helps me relax.
  • Painting: I am an amateur artist. I work with oil paints. Painting is a tool I use to get away from my work and into doing something creative and positive for myself.
  • Sit and do nothing: This is a task assigned to me by my sponsor. She has been trying to get me to do this for years. Juliet’s assignment is to just sit and do nothing for a few minutes. This means no meditation, no worship, no phone, no TV, no computer, just sit. This was very difficult for me. It still is in fact. But I do it. We started out with just 2 minutes. It seemed like an eternity. Now I’m up to 5 minutes. This practice calms me down and gets the hamster off the wheel. It’s very effective in getting me to stop and relax.

 

 

 

 

 

Driving Lost

 Waiting to sob

From the bottom of my soul

Trying like hell to give up control

~ Waiting by Juliet A. Wright

copyright 2010, all rights reserved

 

I have no sense of direction. I get lost at the drop of a hat. I’ve gotten lost in Los Angeles, Hawthorne, Malibu, Menlo Park, Mountain View, Kansas City (both of them!), Boston, Maine, New York State, Woodstock, Lenox, and even in Pittsfield, Massachusetts where I work. And I’m sure I left out like a million places. I can get lost going to the bathroom. Is it an illness? A condition? Is something blocking by brain? I have always been like this. I have always gotten lost very, very easily.
A couple of years back, my sister and her husband gave me a GPS, which helped. That machine was made for people like me, who obviously came out of the womb lost, not knowing where to go next. That’s me.

 

The problem with GPS systems is that you have to tell them where you want to go. Then you have to put in the right address. Then the GPS has to like the address you put in. A lot of the time it says, “Address not found.” That makes me so mad. Now come on. Please. The person who lives there gave me the address. The Internet likes the address. What’s your problem, Mr. Map-in-a-Box Computer Program? Frustrating!

Sometimes there is a roadblock or detour that Mr. GPS hasn’t seen or figured out. Then he starts giving you grief for going the wrong way. “Recalculating.” Okay fine, what can I do? I’m not driving through the river or over the side of the mountain. This was especially true in New England following Tropical Storm Irene when many of the two-lane highways were severely damaged and barely functional.

 

Most recently, I was lost in Acadia National Park in Maine. It is a beautiful, peaceful, Spirit-filled, mammoth place. It has one-way streets that intersect with two-way streets. It has signs that say, “Do not enter” and “This way only.” I don’t like that. I typed in Acadia National Park into the nice little GPS box and the box led me to the main gate. That’s not where I wanted to go. I wanted to go to the Visitor’s Center. What’s the matter with you? Then I tried to follow the directions of the guard. Then I drove around lost for one hour. The Man-inside-the-Box was laughing. Serves her right, stupid human.

 

You can imagine what came next. Rage. Yelling. Gone was the sweet Christian Quaker Juliet who was listening to her bible CDs in the car. Enter raging, cursing, mean, Kathy Bates character in Fried Green Tomatoes when she rammed the dickens out of that VW Bug that took her parking spot. Marilyn Manson and The Matrix Reloaded soundtrack replaced the bible CDs and were blasting in my car. Pretty soon I started having hot flashes and I was sweating like some sort of farm animal. This only added to my rage.
Eventually I realized I had driven myself not only crazy, but right out of the park as well. So then I got to turn around and do it all over again. Great fun! Eventually I found my way to the ocean walk, got a parking spot, and went for a walk.

 

Enter calm Juliet apologizing to God for her temper tantrum, saying her positive affirmations, reciting her gratitude list, asking for forgiveness for her terrible, obviously inherited temper.

 

So what is the purpose of me getting lost? Acceptance? Surrender? Letting go of control? Patience? I would say all of the above. And faith. Hello? I need to have faith. God is going to help me to find out where I am going. I need to turn it over, stop freaking out, and go on God’s timetable, not mine.

 

The good news is stated in the bible:

 

He who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.

~ Philippians 1:6 (NIV)

 

Thank heavens! I get another chance or two to get it right. I mean I don’t know if I’ll ever really know where I’m going when I’m behind the wheel of a car, but maybe I can handle it differently so that I don’t have to rage over it.

 

Maybe the only time I really know where I’m going is when I admit that I’m lost. When I surrender, give up control, let go, have faith, practice acceptance. The fact that I think I know where I’m going and what will happen next is just an illusion anyway, a fantasy. Only God knows that. My requests for the knowledge of His will unveils a few ice crystals that are really part of a huge glacier. Crystal by crystal it is revealed to me. I will trust. I will accept. I will surrender. I will breathe in and out. Relax. Breathe.

 

I am now more aware of when I am moving into rage and am able to get back into balance by using the tools I have listed below. I have also learned from my beloved sponsor that I can choose how to feel. She says that even when I’m in the middle of a rage in my car because of traffic delays, detours, I’m running late, or whatever, I can choose to be content. I can just decide to be calm, accepting, and happy and be that way. I don’t know if I have achieved the ability to do that in all cases quite yet, but I’m starting to remember her words, and that is the first step. That is progress.

 

Quite recently, after being in my car for way too long and getting very angry about it, I remembered her words. I can just decide to be happy and calm, I thought to myself. I relaxed and made it home safely. I also made a vow not to get into my car at all the next day. That helped a lot.

 

Here I practice 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? I’m lost.
  4. If possible, I write down the information and journal about how I’m feeling. I am feeling rageful; I’m wasting time and not accomplishing anything. I also feel fear because I don’t know where I am.
  5. I pray for the willingness to accept the situation and information as it is. God help me to be willing to accept the fact that I am lost and wasting time being lost.
  6. I pray for acceptance of the situation. God help me to accept the fact that I am lost and wasting time.
  7. I admit powerlessness over said problem. I am powerless over the fact that I am lost and wasting time.
  8. Then I become willing to feel my feelings. I am rageful and also fearful about being lost.
  9. I pray for God to help me with the pain I feel inside. God please help me to get rid of my rage and fear in a safe and healthy way.
  10. I put a note in my God Box about it.
  11. Where can I put my mind that is not on this? I sit by the side of the road and breathe in and out. I find the closest walking destination in the park and walk there for a while to calm myself down.
  12. 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. It’s okay that I got lost.
  13. From now on, I will make sure that I plug the correct address into the GPS or I’ll take the shuttle to the hiking spot. I will pray and give it to God too. He will help.
  14. Even if I get lost again, 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.
  15. Take myself to Tanglewood: 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? I feel more relaxed. My heart rate has slowed down and I’ve wiped the sweat from my brow.
  2. I breathe big and deep.
  3. What’s the information? I’m lost.
  4. What are my choices? I can turn around, go back the way I came, and stop at the nearest walking spot no matter what it is.
  5. I hold the outcome in the Light of God, give thanks, and visualize what I want.
  6. I take action in the direction of the choices I’ve made. If needed, I plan my additional steps. I am turning around, going back the way I came, and then I’ll stop at the nearest walking spot no matter what it is.
  7. I affirm my choice and accept it. I accept my plan and am comfortable with it.
  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, I give you my “lostness” and ask you to help me find my way to the highest good of all involved.
  9. I ask myself, Where could I put my mind that’s not on this? I put on my Matrix Reloaded soundtrack and then a bible tape. I breathe in and out. I listen while I find the nearest walking spot. I relax.

 

 

Mantras that help me with my rage:

  • In this moment, I let go of what I can’t control.
  • In the moment, I let go and let God.
  • Relax and breathe.
  • Where could I put my mind that’s not on this?
  • I am powerless over this situation. I am powerless over my rage. My life has become unmanageable.
  • Treat it like the front page of the newspaper.
  • Humans make mistakes; that’s okay.
  • I recite The Serenity Prayer like a mantra.

 

Positive Affirmations that help me get out of a rage:

  • All is well in my world.
  • I am relaxed and calm.
  • Thank you God for your mercy and grace.
  • Everything is as it is supposed to be at this moment.
  • Be still and know that I am God. ~Psalm 46:10 (NIV)

I have recently also come up with a list of words that I say that help to calm me down:

 

Serenity, joy, truth, love, hope, peace, trust, faith, green, water, God, omnipotent, omniscient, sovereign, Nature, crunching, running, walking, breathing, relaxing, calm. Thank you, God.

 

 

 

 

Additional practices that help me when I’m fighting my rage:

  • Exercise: Working out on my punching bag, swimming, walking on my treadmill or in Hopkins Forest, and lifting weights all help me release my rage and get back into balance.
  • Loud music: I listen to loud rock music like Lincoln Park, The Matrix Reloaded soundtrack, or Porcupine Tree while I’m driving or using my punching bag. It’s one of my favorite ways to release anger in a healthy way.
  • Angry Birds: I have three Angry Bird figures that I have stuck to my dashboard. Looking at them while I drive helps me to get the anger out of me and calm myself down. They are my mascots.
  • Playing my instruments: I play etudes on my violin, or sing and play my own music on my guitar after I exercise as a way to help myself relax after a rage attack.
  • String quartets: Brahms and Mozart string quartets bring me into a place of serenity, no matter what’s going on in my life.
  • Gratitude list: Reading my gratitude list helps to bring me out of my angry tailspin and back into the present moment. I often combine my workout on the treadmill with reading my gratitude list, which is really affective.
  • Slogans: I repeat my favorite slogans, such as “Easy does it,” “This too shall pass,” “Act as if,” “Let go and let God” and “Turn it over.” Repeating the slogans really helps me relax.
  • Inner child work: My inner child tells me why I’m angry and tells me what she wants to do about it. Then we talk to God about it and make a plan. This is very helpful to me.
  • Step work: I work the steps on whatever situation is fueling my rage. I read this work to my sponsor. I’m even able to laugh at myself afterwards. That is a sign that I’ve stopped taking myself so seriously, which is good.
  • Documentation: I record my thoughts and revelations about my rage into a tape recorder and notate them later.
  • Scripture: Reading scripture helps me to get my focus back on God, where it belongs, and this calms me down.
  • Deep breathing: I take a few minutes to do some deep breathing. With every exhale I let go and my rage leaves a little bit more and for a longer period of time. I do this as many times as I need to continue.

 

Thank you God for this learning.

Daily Dose of Dislikes

 

 

Wait for the mail

Wait for the phone

Wait for a friend

Wait to be alone

 

Waiting for sound

Waiting for someone

To bring me around

 

Waiting in line

To lose my mind

What I might find

Insanity is mine

 

~ Waiting by Juliet A. Wright

copyright 2010, all rights reserved

 

I just took my daily dose of dislikes. I take one every time I want to torture myself unnecessarily. Much of the time it involves making phone calls to my bank, credit card, phone company, or other automatic-frustration-available-here type of organizations. UGH! This daily dose of dislikes is a good example of how resentment and rage can go hand in hand.

 

So what’s going on with me today? What defect is emerging its ugly head? I am feeling resentful. Why? Because for the 40th time I had to call the bank to try to get them to send me a reminder that the auto bill pay for a non-profit organization phone bill is going to happen. But they can’t send me the reminder. They can only send the old treasurer of the non-profit the reminder. However, I am now the new treasurer, so this is very frustrating. Now I’m not even clear if the auto bill pay is going to happen or not. It had better not because I just paid the bill.

 

So I have to remember when this bill is due. But remembering is beyond my capabilities. I can’t remember anything. It took a half-hour of my time to not get this done and most of that time was spent on hold. I am feeling very angry and resentful about it.

 

If it makes me resentful, it’s not a choice. Resentment leads to rage. So why did I bother calling? Unknown. Why don’t I just put a note on my own phone bill or calendar that says, “Don’t forget non-profit bill!” Cuz that is the only reminder I’m going to get.
How much will the bill be? I don’t know. I’ll have to guess. Maybe I’ll just pick a number out of a hat to decide how much to send them. This is very aggravating! It isn’t even clear to me why they won’t switch it from the old treasurer to me. They just said that since she is the one who opened the account, it has to be sent to her. This doesn’t make any sense to me.

 

Resentment and rage are my problem. I’m the one who called the bank. I knew what I was getting into with them. This is after calling another Internet utility company last night and getting someone from heaven knows where that I couldn’t understand who hung up on me. That was another winner. What a party. I can’t stand having this much fun!

 

Resentment. Frustration. Anger. Get it out. I have The Matrix Reloaded soundtrack on and they are screaming their lungs out. Awesome. That helps. I have my candles going. That helps. I’m journaling, typing, spilling my guts, working on my book. That helps too. Breathe. It’s okay. Just get over this hump. It’ll be okay. God loves you. Keep writing.

 

Bruises by Unloco is my new favorite song. This is the stuff!!! He is screaming his lungs out. He is helping me express myself. Yes! Go boy go!!!
Listening to this music really helps when I’m frustrated. Wailing on my punching bag at the same time is even better.

 

The poor bank lady. I feel bad for her. God bless the bank lady. It’s not her fault that this process is just a waste of time. I wish I had been nicer to her. I knew how the conversation was going to end when I started so what was the point? I knew she was going to come back and say she couldn’t help me. God please bless the bank lady. She really tried hard to help me. I hope she talks to nicer people than me.

 

That’s it, Unloco, scream some more about your bruises. Let it out. Thank you for helping.

 

I am expressing my rage and trying to let go of my resentments. After all, I did it to myself.

 

And see this stuff totally works for me. I listened to Bruises by Unloco about ten times. Then I listened to the entire Matrix Reloaded soundtrack. I lit some candles and wrote on my computer about how I’m feeling. I wrote and wrote and wrote. And now I’m calm. Now Unloco has taken a refreshments break and Brahms is helping me out with his String Quartet #1 Opus 88 in F. Thanks Brahms!

 

 

 

 

 

 

Progress on People Pleasing/Approval Seeking

 

Am I now trying to win the approval of human beings or of God?

Or am I trying to please people?

If I were still trying to please people, I would not be a servant of Christ.

~ Galatians 1:10 (NIV)

 

I am much less of a people pleaser than I used to be. If I don’t want to do something with someone, then I say no. If I’m having a hard time saying no, or the person is being persistent, then I may tell them I’ll check my schedule and get back to them. Then later I will decline their offer in a nice way. If I’m with someone I don’t see too often, I may bend to their wishes to honor what they want to do.

 

People pleasing does not mean that I will give up my plans in certain critical areas. For instance, CoDA meetings, journaling, worship, and exercise are non-negotiable.

 

Yet sometimes I still worry that if I don’t do what people want, they will take their love away. This still happens sometimes with my family of origin. I learned this behavior from them and I learned it well. But I am getting better. More often than not, I speak up about my needs and desires in a nice way. Sometimes it is still scary, but I do it.

 

I still am fearful to some degree that the person will get mad at me, especially if it is someone who is close to me. However, it is better than it used to be. I still get a tiny bit of panic or concern in my stomach when the words leave my mouth, but at least I’m saying it and that is a huge leap forward.

 

If I get into a quandary about what to do, then I stop and ask God what he wants me to do. Then I do that. Because I am here to do what God wants me to do, not what others want me to do. Doing what God wants me to do fills me with inner peace.

Conflict Avoidance and Passiveness

I can feel change comin’

Comin’ over me

It’s gonna be so different

Just wait and see

 

~ Change from Fearless Moral Inventory by Juliet A. Wright

copyright 2010, all rights reserved

 

 

I still don’t enjoy conflict and I’m still a passive person. But I stick up for myself more often than I used to and that is progress. In the past I would just shove whatever I wanted under the carpet in order to keep the peace. Whatever I wanted wasn’t that important. You were the person who was important. I don’t do that as much now. I stick up for what I want.

 

The previous example of speaking my truth in the conflict with Doris is a good example of Juliet learning to be assertive. It was not easy, but I did it.

 

I am also learning to be more assertive and less afraid of conflict at work. For example, in my recent attempts to schedule end-of-the-year concerts for my orchestra students, I have encountered some conflicts with my fellow teachers and their end-of-the-year field trips. Communication can be a tricky thing in the education field, and pretty much any field, I would suppose. Some educators have the tendency to schedule things without consulting the school calendar. I had scheduled a concert with the principal on a certain day and time. When I told my students about it, they said they were going on a field trip and wouldn’t be there. I emailed the individual organizing the event but did not get the information in her response that I wanted. The old Juliet would have just given up, picked another day, sulked, and said I don’t matter, forget it. The new Juliet called the teacher in question and talked to her on the phone about it. We communicated and solved the problem. I did not come from a passive place, or a place of fear of abandonment or fear of rejection. Business is business. I did not take it personally. The concert is now scheduled. This is progress.

 

I also spoke assertively to someone after a CoDA meeting a few months ago. At the end of our meeting, we passed around a bag of positive affirmations. Everyone that wants to picks an affirmation out of the bag and reads it. One individual picked a piece of paper out of the bag and said, “Oh look, Juliet’s phone number!” I did not appreciate it. I did not engage in crosstalk, but waited for the meeting to be over. At the close of meeting, I told the person how I felt.

 

I said: “I just want you to know that we don’t do thirteenth stepping at this meeting. I didn’t appreciate your comment about the phone number. It wasn’t okay with me. Please don’t do it again.”

 

In their best-selling book, Boundaries, Dr. Henry Cloud and Dr. John Townsend recommend that people practice new behaviors in a safe place, such as a support group.[1] So I was practicing in a safe place and was practicing on someone that I felt safe being assertive with. I didn’t have anything to lose.

The outcome was that the person took it quite well, at least from my point of view. The person made an excuse like that was not what they meant, it was joke, etc. I stood my ground. We ended the conversation and parted ways.

 

That is me sticking up for myself. That is me walking right into a potential conflict situation and saying what I need to say for myself. That is me realizing I am worth speaking up for. I matter. This progress is the result of working this program. I feel good about this growth and will keep practicing being assertive in safe environments.

 

Mantras that help me when I’m facing a conflict:

  • Remember your bubble. My therapist told me to imagine a protective bubble around myself so that when hurtful things happen, I am not affected. The bad stuff only hits the outside of the bubble.
  • Treat it like the front page of the newspaper.
  • Hold the outcome in the Light of God.
  • Before you go into a room, hold it in the Light of God.
  • Dear God, I give you this conflict for my highest good.
  • Observe, don’t react.
  • Don’t take it personally. This isn’t about me.
  • God, please speak through me.
  • God, please take care of this conflict for me.
  • Does this serve you?
  • You have a choice.
  • Go for process, not content.

 
Positive Affirmations that I say when preparing to face a potential conflict and am feeling passive:

  • Juliet deserves good things.
  • I am worthy of love just because I exist.
  • My cross ring and my Angry Birds remind me to take myself to Tanglewood when I’m facing a conflict.

 

Additional practices that help with my conflict avoidance and passiveness.

  • Slogans: I repeat my favorite slogans, such as “Easy does it,” “This too shall pass,” “Act as if,” “Let go and let God” and “Turn it over.” Repeating the slogans really helps me relax when I’m preparing to face a potential conflict.
  • Give it to God: I place the person and situation I feel overly-responsible for 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.

[1] Cloud, Henry and John Townsend. Boundaries: When to Say Yes, How to Say No to Take Control of Your Life (Audio). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2001.

 

Center of the Universe Complex

Center of the Universe Complex

 

Enlightened now, I look above

There’s His love, It’s perfect.

After all it’s not about you

~ Expectations from Fearless Moral Inventory

by Juliet A. Wright, copyright 2009, all rights reserved

 

I am really recovering well from my center of the universe complex. I am much quicker to catch myself and get out of that mode than when I first got into recovery.

The world does not revolve around me, my wishes, or my dreams. People are not always thinking about me. I am also not the cause of other people’s problems.

Here’s an example of this defect in action and how I quickly deflected its action inside myself. I recently spoke to a contractor about doing some concrete work in my new barn. He never got back to me with a price, so I chose someone else to do the work. So then one day he just showed up at my door, ready to start doing the work. I told him I had hired someone else. Well, the other day, I saw his truck for sale at the local convenience store. Oh gosh, I thought to myself, I’ve put him out of business. Now he has to sell his truck to survive. He has gone out of business, is going to starve, and it’s all my fault.

 Stop! First of all, I don’t know for certain why he’s selling his truck. It could be for any number of reasons. Second, he never got back to me and business is business. So neither myself nor my job could have been foremost on his mind. Clearly he is not thinking about me. I am not the center of his world.

I also am now aware that just because a principal might have reprimanded me in some way, she may be reacting to something else that had happened to her earlier in the day and is just taking it out on me. The negative energy I experienced probably has nothing to do with me. She was also onto the next thing in her life as soon as she interacted with me. I am not the center of the universe.

Here’s another example. Last week a student came into class and seemed to be very angry and frustrated that she had to be there. The old Juliet would be thinking to herself, Wow, this kid hates me, and I’m ruining her life by making her be here. I have to make her like me. I have to control her and make her do things my way.

 Then I would have jumped headlong into my codependency patterns:

 I’m not conscious of my own moods. I am conscious of your moods.

  • If you’re happy, I’m happy.
  • Your moods and actions are my fault.
  • If you hurt, I hurt; I think I have to fix you.
  • If you like me, I like me.
  • If you think I’m good, I think I’m good.[1]

Then I would have jumped headlong into a power struggle with this girl to get her to do what I wanted her to do and win her over.
I didn’t do that this time. I immediately got into the observer and just watched her behavior. What’s going on with this girl today? I wondered.

During the course of the class, it became clear that she was not going to follow directions or do as she was asked. The new in-recovery Juliet let it go. I went on with my class, focused on the other students, and did my job. I knew in my heart that I was not at the center of whatever was going on with this kid. It was her issue. I was doing what I was supposed to do.

I was a little flustered during and right after the incident with the student, at least on the inside. My heart was pounding the whole time, indicating that my inner child did not feel safe. She felt attacked. Still, I held it together, didn’t take it personally, and kept going. I didn’t get resentful at her or lay blame. That is huge progress for me. That’s recovery.

How did I do it? I plugged in my new mantras that I use when teaching:

  • Don’t take it personally. This girl is going through something today and it has nothing to do with me. She was upset when she walked in.
  • Don’t react: Observe her behavior but don’t react. Relax, breathe, wait, and watch.
  • Stick to business and just teach music: Remember, she’s not the only student in the room. Every student here deserves my equal attention. My job is to teach them music to the best of my ability. That’s why I’m here.
  • Think before you speak: I’ll take a breath and wait before I speak. Do I really want to say that?
  • This too shall pass: This situation and the anxiety it produces inside me will not last forever. I can handle it.
  • Let it go: Give the class, the students, and the situation over to God.

 

Besides, I’m not the center of the universe anyway. God is the center of my universe. He’s the one that it is all about. He’s the one to whom I need to be giving my attention. Everything that I do needs to be done to glorify him, not myself. What a great place it is to be in to not be the center of the universe. What freedom! What joy!

Whenever I feel like my center of the universe complex is coming back, I can plug into any of my mantras, including:

  • It’s not about you.
  • You are not the center of the universe.
  • Business is business.
  • Relax and breathe.
  • Where could I put my mind that’s not on this?
  • Treat it like the front page of the newspaper.

 

Working the principles to overcome a center of the universe complex:

 

I think one of the biggest things that has helped me overcome all of my defects, but especially my center of the universe complex, is working the 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 center of the universe complex.

Faith: I have faith that God is there, that he is all powerful, and that he cares for me.

Surrender: I give my life, my will, the situation, and my center of the universe complex over to Him.

Soul searching: I do an inventory of how I’m feeling, what I’ve done in the situation and why.

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 center of the universe complex as it is. Just accepting that I have it 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 center of the universe complex. There is a God, it is not me. I’m not in charge. It’s not my show, it’s His to run, as my song goes (from Something to Believe In). Then I humbly ask God to take away my center of the universe complex if and when He is ready. And He is doing it.

Willingness: I am willing to admit that I’ve made mistakes, hurt people, and 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 center of the universe complex 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 am 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 center of the universe complex 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’s me getting out of my own way, for sure.

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

 

The principles are vital to my recovery from my center of the universe complex. 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.

Low Self Esteem

 

Low Self-Esteem

 

And what is she? What is she?

She is hopeless

A loser

Out of her mind.

 

~ Beloved by Juliet A. Wright

copyright 2005, all rights reserved

 

 

I still struggle with the defect of low self-esteem. The good news is that I’m slowly ridding myself of this defect. I feel much better about myself today than I did in the past. I’m beginning to see my worth as a person. I’m a worthwhile, lovable person just because I am a child of God. I can love myself just because of that.
Sometimes, however, I still get down on myself and tie my self-worth to what I accomplish in a day, how hard I work, how well my books sell, how many students I have, what other people think of me, and how I look.

 

What really affects me is what my students and their parents think of me. Making mistakes with, disappointing, or losing students is very, very hard on my self-esteem. I beat myself up endlessly when such incidents occur and really have to work my program to recover.

 

Process Four really helps me to stay centered and balanced in the classroom.

 

 

Let’s revisit Process Four:

 

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

 

  • Don’t take it personally: I learned this from my therapist. Anything that anyone says to me is about them, even if it sounds like it’s about me. This helps me realize that I didn’t do anything intentionally wrong to hurt someone. They’re telling me about them.

 

  • Don’t react: I live in a world of reactors. I have been guilty of this myself. I get input from someone and blurt out whatever I’m feeling at the moment. The right thing for me to do is to stop, consider the situation, and say nothing, until I’m sure about what they said, what happened, and how I feel about it. This also helps me to keep my self-esteem up because it prevents me from saying and doing things that I’ll regret later.

 

  • Stick to business and just teach music: So after I have restrained myself from reacting to whatever a person said or did, I just stick to business and teach music. That is why I’m there. Juliet needs to do her job. That also helps build my self-esteem because I’m doing what I’m supposed to do.

 

  • Think before you speak: I need to think before I speak. This is related to don’t react, but it is helpful for me to have it as a separate step to remind myself to do it. What I say matters in the classroom and there are lots of little ears engaged. I need to be careful to say what God wants me to say, not what I want to say. Being in a constant state of prayer helps me to think before I speak.

 

  • This too shall pass: I have placed this slogan here because sometimes things are said and done in the classroom and on email by parents that are very hurtful to me. I have to remind myself that the moment and the hurt will not last forever. God will get me through it.

 

  • Let it go: This slogan is here because after I have experienced whatever hurtful verbal or email comment or criticism that occurred, and have reminded myself that this too shall pass, then it’s time for me to let it go. I put it in my imaginary beautiful goblet and offer it up to God. Then I move on.

 

 

I say these steps as mantras to myself whenever I need to during my workday or any other time. They help me get my center back and help me focus on God.

 

Another activity I engage in that helps me to stay centered on God is reading scripture at lunchtime. I have scripture written on index cards in a bag in my purse. I read scripture during my lunch break while I eat. This really helps me recover from whatever may have just gone on in the classroom by getting my focus back on God. Knowing that I have a loving, merciful God who cares about me and is sovereign over my life improves my self-esteem. I know I’m not charge, I don’t have to control or fix it, and I’m worthwhile because God loves me.

 

Deep down I am truly beginning to realize that I have worth as a person just because I exist. We all do. We all have worth. We are all worthy of God’s love, regardless of who we are or what we have or haven’t done. We are all equal in the eyes of God.
I used to get my self-worth from the promise of a successful music career. I’ll be a worthy person when I achieve success in music. As I look under the carpet of my past, I find my dream of commercial musical success trampled and crumpled like a dirty gum wrapper that flew out of my pocket, landed on the ground, and was never thrown away. I wanted that musical success for a very long time. Now I know that probably isn’t going to happen for me, at least not the way that I thought I wanted it. This self-pronounced failure gave me low self-esteem for a long time. I’ve failed. I didn’t get there. I didn’t make it. I don’t matter.

Thanks to recovery I now have a different outlook on the music I make in my life. Now I’m writing and playing my music to heal myself. I share it with others in case it might help them to heal. That is the God in me speaking to the God in them. I like that. Thank you, God. Under the carpet near the gum wrapper, there is the old Juliet who got her self-worth from her musical success. So when she failed, she wasn’t worth anything as a person. We can throw that self-image in the recycle bin and fix it right up. Juliet is a beloved child of God just because she is herself.

Next to that crumpled gum wrapper from under the carpet that represents my tortured music career are small pieces of a muffin that dropped while I was eating breakfast and changing violin strings at the same time. These pieces of muffin represent the Juliet who used to get her self-worth from the men in her love-life. Let’s throw that in the garbage too.

I used to think I was only worthy if a man loved me at that moment. For most of my adult life, that was Alex. So when our marriage failed, I thought I had no worth. The soul searching and step work I have done on that relationship has helped me heal from the related pain and relieved me of those misconceptions. I am grateful to God for this healing and learning. Thank you, God.
I definitely take some of my self-worth from what I look like. When I was younger, my relying on this source of worth was worse. I was supposed to look great all the time when I was young. Above all, I was supposed to be thin. This was fueled by my parents’ expectations and, later, a career in Hollywood. I still take some of my self-worth from what I look like, but it’s not nearly as severe as it used to be. Moving out of Hollywood and back to Vermont really helped me with this. I know that I’m a good person underneath it all and that won’t change with 5 pounds of fat, 5 pounds of makeup or a lack thereof. I’m a perfect child of God just the way I am. Despite aging, I really like how I look. That’s a huge step forward for me. That’s recovery.

 

What Other People Think of Me Is None of My Business

Now I’ll confront my fears head on

Speak my truth, sing my song

And if you chose to walk away

After you’ve heard what I have to say

At least I believed in me

 

~ All These Fears by Juliet A. Wright

copyright 2011, all rights reserved

 

In the next entry, I discuss an experience I had with a parent who expressed dissatisfaction with some elements of my work. How I handled the situation shows my recovery at work. I’m proud of that.

 

What other people think of me is none of my business. My therapist told me this and I like it. Other people’s thoughts and opinions are about them. They have nothing to do with me.

Thank you, God.

I’m sitting here fretting and stewing about what some of my parents think of me. So if what other people think of me is none of my business that is great news. One parent hasn’t thought much of me this particular week.

Teachers are really public servants. My sponsor/teacher/mentor/friend told me that and I believe her. We are public servants. This, amongst many other factors, makes it a very difficult job. We do are best. Juliet does her best.

Yes, Juliet does her best for her students every day. She did her best at her first Rosemead School concert on Monday. The concert turned out well. The kids who were there performed well. At least four students didn’t show up, which was a bummer. But the students who did show up were great. Thanks be to God.

My commute was horrible that day, but I dealt with it. There was road construction everywhere and traffic was awful. I don’t mean Los Angeles awful, but still awful. We all know how Juliet feels about traffic. I have to put in my Matrix Reloaded soundtrack and stare at my Angry Bird mascots attached to my dashboard to be able to deal with it and not curse like a sailor. Breathe. It’s okay. This wonderful construction will be going on for one month, until the end of school. Oh joy. Lucky me. Deal with it. Okay. Let it go. Breathe. Cool. God loves me. Thank God. Put in a bible tape after Marilyn Manson gets done screaming. Breathe. Okay. I’m okay now.

I finally arrived at school, with only one minute to gather my kids for class. My Early Morning Orchestra is a before-school activity. So I have to meet my students at the front door, which takes extra time and effort. Forget about going to the bathroom, setting up, breathing in and out. Just hit the ground running. I dealt with it. I got through my teaching day, trying to live in the moment and focus on my students. I tried to not let my mind and heart worry about Alice and her grief over the death of her husband.

That same evening, we had our spring concert. After the concert was over, one parent came to see me in my room. She expressed dissatisfaction with her son’s placement on stage. She wanted her son Irving to be in the front. She told me that Irving also wanted to be in the front but was in the back for both concerts. She felt that he was discouraged by this. Irving plays the bass.

“Bass players don’t sit in the front,” I began to explain. “Their instruments are big and I wouldn’t be able to see anyone else if I put them in the front.”

“Well, that wasn’t very well received,” she said rather defensively.

“This is a standard setup for an orchestra,” I told her, staying with the same reasoning.

Still she wasn’t satisfied.

“Well, think about it,” I continued. “If I put Irving in the front that means someone has to go in back of him and I’ll get complaints from that parent about their child not being seen.”

The parent continued. “He is a sensitive boy so he may not play next year. He doesn’t want to sit in the back and none of his friends play bass. He doesn’t like being the only one. I can send him back to the music school. He wants to be in the front.”

So up came Irving to see his mom. When I tried to talk to Irving, his mom put up her hand to stop me.

“We can talk about this later,” the mom said. She glanced towards her son in a way that told me, “Please don’t talk about this now.”

So we ended the conversation somehow and I went back into my room.

Soon I headed out to the parking lot, where I saw that parent again.

“I feel like I miscommunicated,” she said. “I’m not being a back-stage mom, I’m really not. I don’t need him in the spotlight. I can take him to the music school for that.”

This was the second time she mentioned the music school. So was this a threat?

“Maybe if you explained to Irving that it has nothing to do with him not being good enough,” the mom continued. “It’s just because it is a big instrument, that this is the standard format of an orchestra. He would understand that.”

Okay, I just tried to do that and you stopped me, I thought to myself.

“I wish I hadn’t said anything,” the mom concluded as she started to walk away. “This didn’t go well.”

“I’m just trying to figure it out and communicate,” I said calmly as I watched her head toward her car. “We’ll figure it out,” I added. At least I think I said that last part.

So I stewed and fussed about it all the way home.

Juliet’s Defects of Character at work:

  • Other people’s beliefs and opinions are always more important than mine. They are always right and I am always wrong.
  • Your moods and actions are my fault.
  • Your customs and thoughts are always right. I’m always wrong.
  • I think I have to be perfect and so do you. Nothing less will do. I am less than.[1]

 

Juliet’s Feelings at work:

  • This 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 am less than.[2]

On my way home, I started talking to God about it.

“God, please help me focus on you and not this woman. Please help me turn it over, because you have something to say to me. Help me, Lord. Help me get this. Help me understand. Help me to just focus on you and I’ll give it to you and you’ll figure it out. It’s all for the highest good. Show me the steps forward. I did a little step work and talked to a program friend and that is a step forward. I have value and I deserve to be happy. All that matters is that you be glorified. I will listen to the Holy Spirit and will be obedient. That is what I need to do.”

During worship, God comforted me with the following verse:

 

Am I now trying to win the approval of human beings, or of God?

Or am I trying to please people?

If I were still trying to please people,

I would not be a servant of Christ.

~ Galatians 1:10 (NIV)

 

I gave it to God and he gave me comfort. I got on my knees and surrendered to God. I put a note in my God Box about it. My God Box is a jewelry box with the insides taken out. I write whatever is troubling me on a piece of paper and put it in the box. In this way, I have given these problems and worries to God. This makes it easier for me to stop obsessing about the problem and let it go. I use my God Box all the time. It works really well for me.
Positive Affirmation:

  • Let’s just trust God for that.

 

Juliet’s Codependency Pattern:

  • Your customs and thoughts are always right. I’m always wrong.[3]

 

In recovery, I realize that the world is not always this black and white. No one is always right but God.

In recovery, I realize that communication with others is a two-way street. I always do my best to speak the truth as I know it and act on the best interests of everyone.

So what other people think of me is none of my business.

As my therapist says, what other people think is about them. It is what they see through their screen. It is theirs.

Around this time, a light bulb went on inside my head. Suddenly all the hard work I’ve been doing in recovery and therapy started its engines, and I had my own power supply running in my tired teaching head.

Maybe this woman wasn’t trying to make me feel like crap. Maybe she feels like she messed up and she shouldn’t have said anything. Maybe she is struggling with insecurity inside herself. That could be true too. My being able to think that and not just blame myself for it is a miracle from God. That’s recovery.

There was another way to think about it. I didn’t have to come from a place of fear, thinking things like Oh my Gosh, this kid is going to quit and I’m a bad teacher. I am a less-than human being. I’ve failed and everyone knows it. None of that was true.

Positive Affirmation:

I will not believe Lucifer’s lies. I will believe the truth that I am a beloved child of God.

Then I came up with some solutions:

  • I’ll try to rearrange the seating plan so Irving is in the front and still is in orchestra formation.
  • I will also ask him if he wants to do a solo.

Pastor Steve Mays says we have to admit powerlessness over things we can’t control and things we can’t fix. That is when God is getting ready to do a major work in our life. So I admitted powerlessness over this parent and her opinions of me.

 

Signs of Recovery
All of this hard work was worth it. I am, by the grace of God, seeing growth. I am seeing recovery.

For one thing, the time I spent in anguish about this occurrence was shorter. I have been obsessive about it for the past couple of days, but it hasn’t been constant and I haven’t been in complete despair about it. All or nothing catastrophic thinking is not at work as much as it used to be. I now see solutions and a way out. I also see both sides of the situation a little better. I am still stewing about it, but it is not devastating like it used to be. These are signs of growth.

In those moments of the exchanges between the mom and me, I was upset. My heart was pounding and my inner child was upset. However, I was able to look at this woman and see that she was struggling too. She was trying to get what she wanted. She wanted her son to be in the front.

The next day, I emailed both of Irving’s parents. I thanked the mom for our exchange and told the dad I was copying him on the email at his request to be on the list. I told them I had rearranged the entire seating arrangement so that Irving could be in the front and still be in orchestra formation. I also suggested he do a solo and asked them to discuss it with their son and get back to me. In addition, I stated that I totally support private instruction at the music school and that it really helps students to grow as musicians. I was happy with my email when I sent it.

I have never heard anything further from the mom on this matter. I did ask Irving if he wanted to do a solo and he said no, he would rather not. I got the impression he was happy to continue playing as part of the beginners group. I did use the new orchestra formation that had Irving playing in the front and he seemed to be content with that, although he never mentioned anything to be about it.

Now I can look at the situation and realize I did my best.

All of this is for my growth. All of this is for my learning.

Again, as my therapist once told me, what other people think of me is none of my business, even if it’s good. It is about them, what they’re thinking. This makes it an outside issue, just like Tradition 10 says:

 

  1. CoDA has no opinion on outside issues; hence the CoDA name ought never be drawn into public controversy.[4]

This applies directly to my issue with this parent. This is about her and her thoughts are an outside issue. They have nothing to do with me. This gets me off the hook.

If I made a mistake, I’ll promptly admit it. But I don’t think I made a mistake. I didn’t know anything was wrong. I even tried to have Irving in orchestra at the beginning of the school year, before all this happened, but it seemed like it was too much for him. Besides, his mother complained about having to bring him early, citing transportation issues. She seemed relieved when she didn’t have to bring him early anymore.

 

Positive Affirmation:

  • Today I release myself from all expectations.

 

I have to release myself from all expectations because I had the expectation that this woman would say something, like “Thank you for what you do” or “I think what you do is good,” but she said nothing after I made those changes.

I have to stop having expectations about people and what they will say and do. I am just setting myself up for disappointment when I have expectations about anything.

I used to have high expectations for everything and sometimes I still do. But there are moments in my life now when I’m satisfied if I can just get the lawn mower started. That would be a good day. Waking up and realizing I am still alive is enough to make it a good day.

I did the best I could. I am not less than. I am a beloved child of God. I am a very hard-working teacher. I answer to a higher authority, to a loving God who is always with me, always watching, always sovereign.

I will keep an open mind about others and accept them as they are. This means keeping an open mind about myself and accepting myself as I am.
Positive Affirmation:

  • God knows everything about me and loves me anyway.

This is hard work and there are challenges. There is pain and hurt, but there is also growth, recovery, and joy. God is in control of all of it. I am grateful. Program works. Thank you, God.

[1] Ibid.

[2] Ibid.

[3] Ibid.

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

Signs of Forgiveness

Signs of Forgiveness

 

Forget the past

It’s surely gone

All we have is now

It’s best to move on
~ All I Can Do by Juliet A. Wright

copyright 2009, all rights reserved

 

In my first book, I wrote extensively about my parents and all the defects of character that I developed as a result of the dysfunctional relationships I had with them. In the following story, I reflect on how my recovery has led me to forgive and have compassion for the people who were my parents.

My parents were really into antiques. My mother and father decorated their house with all types of aged items, and they were always looking to add to their collection. It was a passion that they shared together. Part of this collection consisted of some Delft china of my mother’s that used to sit in the corner cupboard of our kitchen. I would see it there as a child but don’t ever remember looking closely at it or taking note of the pictures that were on it. It was just there in my home with me, along with the cigarettes left on the saucer by mistake and the Stoli’s vodka that was in the teacup in the corner.

Through the course of my tumultuous childhood, resentments built up inside of me. I suffered neglect at the hands of my mother, who was rarely there for me emotionally or spiritually. I had a lot of anger towards her for drinking and blamed her for almost everything. My father was in his power-hungry mode, and he had a desire for control, money, and women — all of that really turned me off too. So I decided that I wanted to run away from all of that and not participate in it. I didn’t want to have any part of it. I took pride in the fact that I didn’t want anything from them, not their money, value system, social life, antiques, or memories.

But over the course of time, experience, recovery, and taste, I’ve grown to really like antiques and country style. In fact, I did like some of my mother’s things. So when she moved out to California to live near my sister, I got some of her copper collectibles, and when she passed away, I decided I would like her Delft. Still, it sat in her storage unit for a really long time.

I remember Mom saying when she moved to California that she wanted to keep her Delft. Yet she didn’t want to get it out of the boxes and set it up on her new hutch, because it was just too sad. I couldn’t understand that. It is just china. What’s the big deal? I thought. Maybe it reminded her of the family farm and how my sister and I sold it so she would have to move and live a less isolated, safer life in town, but I didn’t know. What’s the matter with her? Whatever.

After my mother passed away, I did have the Delft shipped from California to my home in Vermont. I took it out, set it up, and looked at it. It has ships on it. Then it hit me. Oh my gosh, that is the reason it was so sad for her.

My father grew up as a sailor on Lake Michigan. Sailing was his thing. After my folks got married, they would sail together. They would compete in sailboat races, and they also invited friends to be on the boat to party. The five-o’clock-cocktail-hour crowd spent many hours on the decks of that boat. It was like a status thing for her. I really don’t think she was that fond of sailing, I think it kind of scared her. But she did it to make him happy and to be with him. She was fond of the status and how it made her appear to other people. That represented them, that boat. So I thought, Oh, that’s it. Mom was a hopeless romantic. Yet that God of my father had failed her. That is why it was so sad because she realized that he wasn’t true to her and the romance had died. Then he died. Poor Mom, I thought. I wouldn’t want to get up and look at those memories every day either. That would be like hanging pictures in my cabin of Alex and me snuggling at the movies and having to get up every day with them staring me in the face. That would be enough to make me go back to bed and pull the covers over my head for the day. I got it.

So Mom was a hopeless romantic. How about that!

This is a sign of forgiveness, that I can look with compassion on her and say, Poor Mom, I understand. Her world was collapsing and she reacted to it by self-medicating. She just couldn’t stand it. I have empathy for her.

I recently purchased and watched two movies that I enjoyed a lot. The first one was called Valley of the Dolls. This movie focuses on the dark side of the entertainment industry, on the addiction to pills that was prevalent during the late 60s.

The second movie was called Sideways. This movie looks at issues of love, career setbacks, and friendship, along with huge amounts of wine consumption.

As far as Valley of the Dolls goes, when it came out in 1967, Mom was probably on “dolls” (what they call the drugs the actresses take in the movie). That is subconsciously what I believe my attraction is to all of that. Sideways interested me because I lived with alcoholism and I am trying to understand it. There is part of me that’s trying to understand how someone could live like that. Mom probably couldn’t get up without a doll or go to bed without a doll. Plus she was drinking on top of it. I’ll bet that is what happened. Thank you, God. I’m not going through this to lay blame. I’m just trying to figure it out.

Gaining a greater understanding of my parents is a sign of recovery for me. These stories are definite signs of forgiveness.

Another sign of forgiveness is that I can now remember the good things about my father, like how much he loved a good comedy. I can still experience him laughing at The Carol Burnett Show, especially the bits with Tim Conway. Peter Sellers and the Pink Panther movies would also send him over the edge with laughter. He loved James Bond movies and was mesmerized by the film Ben-Hur. Being an actor himself, he would rewind the tape, reviewing every single facial expression, vocal inflection, and expertise in timing, which made him admire the actor he was watching even more. He would especially laugh loudly at his own jokes. Dad had a good sense of humor. There was goodness in him. I remember that.

My father also had moments of shared compassion, reassurance, and empathy. I remember him mailing me a letter that I received upon my return to the University of Miami, in Coral Gables, Florida, after my sister Alice’s Miss Vermont Pageant. He had written me a letter of support. I thought I had flunked my senior jazz guitar improvisation midterm exam with scary Antonio because he had said that a few people had choked on the exam. So naturally I thought Antonio meant me. I was devastated and was crying and was sure life as I knew it was over. (A fine example of “all or nothing” catastrophic thinking.) Dad wrote me a nice letter saying, “The world is not going to end. It will go on. You will be fine. Don’t worry about it.” Things had gotten really weird with Alex on that trip to Vermont too. We had parted on unsettled terms, so I was feeling extra fragile. So that letter from my father helped.

My mother was a fantastic actress and dancer. In her younger years, she was a knockout. She was also known around our hometown, by some, to be a real lady. Everything in her outfit matched — her purse, shoes, everything, even the color she painted her nails. I never experienced this part of Mom, but that is what I’ve been told. I did watch her act in the musical Mame and was blown away. She was excellent. It seemed that she was born for the stage. She too loved a comedy. She was a Frasier addict. Good for her.

I can remember these good things about my folks when I look at the Delft.
So the Delft sits on my door-less kitchen shelves. I bought those fancy plate hangers that make the plates stand up so you can see them clearly. The ships keep my kitchen afloat on the ocean of faith and hope. Every time I look at these dishes, I think of her and I think of him.

I have pictures on my piano of them as young people. They were just starting out. They had their whole lives before them and the whole world by the tail. They were beautiful, beautiful people trying to make it before everything got messy. It was their best moment. Now I hold these pictures of them in my mind. This is how I remember them. This is forgiveness. It is recovery. I am grateful.

What things did I do to get to a place of forgiveness?

  • I did 4th Step inventories as per Co-Dependents Anonymous Step 4:

Made a searching and fearless moral inventory of ourselves.[1]

(I discuss inventories earlier in this book. I also cover the spiritual principle of forgiveness in detail later in this book.)

Through the inventories, I told the stories, and I got them out of me. I told how it felt going through these situations.

  • I changed the behaviors that didn’t work for me and built in new recovery behaviors.
  • I journaled and worshiped and talked to a sponsor.
  • I told God and gave it to Him.
  • I shared at meetings and listened to others.

Through all these practices, I grew as a person, did my amends, and came to a place of forgiveness. That is recovery.

 

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