Saturday, August 30, 2014

Patient Acceptance Pop Quiz

So here I am being all patiently accepting and feeling smug, until I get a pop quiz to see how I'm really doing in Buddhism 101. I drive out to the house I just moved out of to do one last once-over before the walk-through with the new owner. I think I'm just going to have to do a few things, since I paid my former cleaning woman (I haven't had one regularly for years now, am much less posh than I used to be) $150 to clean the empty house and garage and another out-building on the property.  I get there today and realize she only did the house, and didn't do that well enough to keep me from being mortified to have the new owner see it like that. So I have to get all my cleaning stuff and go out there first thing tomorrow morning and do the job I paid her to do. Just what everyone wants to do on the Sunday of a three-day weekend.

I am trying to be totally cool with this, trying to be patiently accepting and not feel put-upon and bitch about it, not put a poor-me post on Facebook. I am getting a B- so far, I think. No Facebook post (someone might see it and then stumble on this and OMG my cover would be blown because I know everyone just lives to learn my real identity and I am not in the least paranoid) but had some feelings of being put-upon and engaged in a smidge of bitching via text before I forced myself to cut it out and be patiently accepting, goddamn it!

I am down with the B- because that means I get an A in Battling Perfectionism but oh shit, that means I don't get an A because I was so smug about being satisfied with the B-.  Oh, Lord, my craziness never ends, does it?

Buddhism 101

I have been listening in the car to a CD by Tibetan Buddhist monk Kelsang Gyatso. I picked it up on the New Books on CD shelf at the library. I knew very little about Buddhism until the past few years, and I still don't know much. The Sanskrit words are all Greek to me (well, not really, because I studied Greek a million years ago so I should probably say all Urdu to me or something like that) and the concepts are ones I only semi-understand, but listening to it calms me down.

He talks about patience, and patient acceptance. That I understand. Understand, and most of the time don't practice. But I've been trying to practice it this week, and it feels good.

It reminds me of the time when my eldest was a toddler and my second a baby, and I was having lunch with my dad and the two kids in that big-ass double stroller that was building me some biceps pushing it all over town. My dad, who is many years sober and has his emotional shit far more together than most people, because decades of 12-stepping will do that to a person, remarked about how calm I was, how I took all the little kid messes and hassles in stride, and was so calm and patient with them.

I was, then. I took things in stride. I was joyful and grateful to be a mother at all, after fearing I'd waited too long and blown it and would never have kids, just an endless series of miscarriages. I was so grateful to be a mother, and really trying to do it right. In retrospect, I see that there was a lot of perfectionism in my attempt, but that's another post.

After that I had more kids and moved out of state, away from my awesomely sober dad and my friends and my support network, my marriage fell apart and I started swearing again (I had totally given it up during my Perfect New Mom phase), got divorced, tried to navigate my way through the working single mom thing, stopped writing and started drinking too much.

Now I have stopped drinking and started writing again, which is much better. And reading things I didn't use to read, like Buddhist stuff. I read something else, I think it was Buddha's Brain (it was the neuroscience rather than the Buddhism that I was after; I love reading about how the brain works),that said all suffering is caused by three things: craving pleasure, trying to avoid pain, and fooling ourselves that things are other than as they are. That made sense, but I am still trying to work out some of the bugs in my head about the pleasure part. More on that in a future post.

Kelsang Gyatso says on the CD that all of our problems stem from what he calls self-grasping ignorance, a concept I am still trying to wrap my very Western and non-Buddhist brain around. What he says about anger I totally get. Anger sucks. I get angry at myself for getting angry, which is both ironic and idiotic, but there you go. Paradox, I guess. But that's Jung, not Buddha, so we'll save that for another post. That's the cool thing about my anonymous blog: I can write stream of consciousness and who gives a shit (I am holding off on that not swearing thing, and calling it battling perfectionism) whereas on my public blog I would feel as though I have to stick to the subject at hand.

So anyway, about the anger. Gyatso is totally dead on about that. Anger is deadly, and the way to combat it is through practicing patient acceptance. I have been practicing the shit out of patient acceptance all week, and it feels great. It's also getting easier. Even without the double stroller.

Thursday, August 28, 2014

A Glass of Wine

Donna at Sober Mom(ologue) writes:

The whole point of drinking is to get drunk. Acting “silly,” blacking out, and hangovers are all just part of it. I have never understood the concept of just having one or two – seriously, isn’t that kind of a waste of the one or two? That is how alcoholics think.
I had heard that for years, and it was part of why I thought I wasn't an alcoholic.  I never wanted to get drunk.  I wanted to have a glass of wine or two, which for years I did and could, but eventually a glass or two became three or five more often than I wanted.  Five meant I'd finished the whole bottle, which meant the next morning I was a mess, filled with shame and self-loathing.  I never wanted to finish the bottle, never wanted to get drunk, but somehow I ended up doing it anyway.  Not every time, but often enough to convince me I had a problem.

Reading Jean's story at UnPickled confirms my assurance that not all alcoholics think the same way, because she was so much like me, and not like all the "alcoholics do/think ______" stereotypes.  I had been sober four months when I found her blog, and had met enough women like me that I knew that people who drink too much come in all kinds of packages.

I haven't read much of Sober Mom(ologue) yet, am just beginning to explore the sobriety blog scene.  I've written here before about Crying Out Now, one of the first I found, and which helped lead me to sobriety.  I have read some of Mished-up, whose author I knew from an online community before I found her blog, and some of Sober Boots, whose author Heather Kopp, like Stefanie Wilder-Taylor is brave enough to be "out there" publicly, writing about her sobriety under her own name.  Someday maybe I will be, too, but not just yet.

Wednesday, August 27, 2014


I have discovered a wonderful new blog, UnPickled, the story of a woman very much like me on her journey to sobriety.  Like me, she didn't "hit bottom" in in ugly, scary way and people weren't telling her she drank too much.  Like me, she'd have a glass or two in public and stay charming, then come home and nurse another glass an hour until bedtime.  This is ugly in its own way, but ugly on the inside, a putrefying interior covered by a mask of poise and beauty.

So many posts on this blog resonated with me.  The Trouble with Shame hit a nerve, because all my life I have struggled with shame, too concerned with what others thought of me, knowing I shouldn't be, but couldn't force myself to stop caring.  The shame fuels my perfectionism, which I know is destructive and try to combat, but with limited success.

This one on Coincidence reminded me of the Serenity Prayer on a plaque on the wall at my neighbor's house when I was a little girl.  I used to read it, and think about it when I was in her kitchen.  Her mother was kind of tightly wound, and once in a while she would be on a terrible tirade of anger.  I hadn't thought of that girl in her mother in a long time, but I wonder now if the mother was an alcoholic, one struggling to stay sober with the Serenity Prayer on the wall, and those rare flashes of frightening rage I witnessed were the fruits of her relapses.

I look forward to reading more of UnPickled and other sobriety blogs, and to sharing parts of my story here, on my anonymous blog where it feels safe.  I don't intend this to be a sobriety blog, per se, but my sobriety is part of who I am now, part of my story, and because I have only shared it with a few people close to me, I'm not ready to go public and write about it on the blog I write under my own name.  I'm not willing to write about a lot of things there.  I suppose I'm afraid people will think I'm over-sharing, and because I care what people think (as much as I may wish I didn't) I keep quiet.