Archive for October, 2009

New crisis management

My thoughts frequently wander to newly acquired insights in crisis management. Lately I’ve been frustrated. I have a good amount of time on my hands, and plenty of things to fill them with: work stuff, school stuff, school project, yoga practice, singing and guitar practice, writing, housework, not to forget socializing and going to the movies.

Since I moved out (and into the next crisis), I enjoyed the slow pace and absence of someone to breath down my neck or give me dirty looks when I was (in his opinion) not using my time wisely. So I guess it was necessary to let my lazy side have some space. It needed a LOT of space!

It’s been just about six months, and lately I’ve felt like I’m drowning in stuff that needs to get done, as well as stuff that I want to do. The crisis of “adjusting to life on my own” has become a new crisis: “I lack structure.” Thus the goal is rather clear: “I need structure.”

That realization has occupied free moments of thought the past few days, as well as been the main attraction. I have enough time to do everything if I stop wasting my time — without having to be stressed out and hectic.

Actually, it just occurred to me that maybe I wasn’t just wasting time. I was recuperating from a stressful 24 years! And now I’m coming to my senses, so to speak, and it appears to me as if I’ve been wasting time. That’s a good sign that it’s time for a change.

Today I got up earlier than usual, got off to a slow start, but faster than has been my habit. It was the willingness to just get started. Just one thing. And one thing led to another, so that by the evening I’d taken care of a lot of stuff — housework, phone calls, organizing stuff and getting a sense of what I need to do. I’m pleased and relieved, and feel much less overwhelmed than I did yesterday.

Yesterday I named my crisis: “I lack structure.” Today I set my goal: “I need structure.” Then I went about examining my resources and how I can get there, the steps I need to take, what help I may need. It’s a good plan. When I have structure in my life, I’ll use the same steps to deal with the next crisis. Crisis/change is the only dependable thing in life, so it helps to have a plan of action!


October 29, 2009 at 9:27 pm Leave a comment

P.S. Crisis

What I forgot to mention in the previous post is the value of humor. One of the major aspects of my recovery was the development of a sense of humor — of which one main ingredient is the ability to laugh at myself. (In a kind way, of course! This is not at all about derisive laughter.)

During the weekend, the process of gaining insight into how I remain entrenched in a crisis was part of a group process. Through wandering about the room and asking our colleagues questions, we sorted ourselves into smaller groups with similar crisis management strategies.

Our goal was: “How to prolong a crisis. How to stay stuck in it.” We were soon laughing at ourselves, with exaggerated — almost cynical — comments. It was an exquisite relief to laugh, and to realize that other people share these behavioral patterns.

Then we went from group to group, to see how the others do it, and explore whether or not we were in the right group. It was like a comedy market, as we went from one “market stand” to the next and asked: “How would you advise me to prolong my crisis?”

“Well, you could feel sorry for yourself, tell yourself that no one could possibly understand you. Or how about massive self-pity and the conviction that no one likes you? Or maybe you prefer denial?” And so on and so forth. It was a bit wacky, but that’s my life these days.

October 26, 2009 at 8:46 pm Leave a comment

It’s Monday and I’m ready for the weekend!

This afternoon I returned home from a four-day seminar. As usual, it was intense. (It’s a three-year program and we meet roughly once a month for an extended weekend.) This weekend the focus was on crisis intervention.

During the course of my short life (not quite half a century), I’ve had a fair amount of crises. Just as the theory tells us, each time I came out stronger. There is much to be gained through each crisis.

Every day we are confronted with crisis — on varying levels. The trainer mentioned a mini-mini-crisis, and a colleague said, “Oh, mmc!” Thus we have a new code for text messaging among colleagues.

With my typical above-it-all attitude, I went there thinking that all of my survived crises would give me an edge on the weekend. An added bonus. What I didn’t expect was the insight that I am in the middle of a big crisis.

True, through moving out I ended the long-term crisis of a dysfunctional marriage, but the adjustment is already the next crisis! It is important not to judge myself or the situation as positive or negative. Each crisis offers a unique opportunity for development.

During the course of the weekend, I learned to recognize my coping patterns, my special form of crisis management. First the focus was on: “How to successfully entrench myself in a crisis and prolong it”. That had more to do with my previous habits, as I have made progress over the past few years.

Then the focus moved toward development of a more appropriate set of steps. In my case, the first step is to acknowledge: “I have a crisis!” Since my tendency is to suffer alone and figure it all out mysef, a helpful step is to reach out for support. Isolation is not the answer. Nor is reaching out a sign of weakness.

A sense of perspective is helpful. When I view the crisis as an opportunity or gift from the universe rather than one more blow of fate, I am more apt to evaluate my resources and possible steps.

My tendency was to say: “Oh, others have it worse. It’s not THAT bad. It could be worse.” etc. Comparison is not the answer. A crisis is a crisis, regardless of what other people are going through. How many years did I observe other married couples and think, “Gee, we aren’t so bad off after all!”

At the end of the seminar, I finally dealt with an issue (an “mmc”) that started last February during the very first weekend seminar, and has grown immensely since then. There is someone in the class who oversteps my boundaries — regarding both physical proximity as well as verbally. Until today my strategy was to avoid her, not smile when she addressed me, and step back when she came too close. But for every step I took backwards, she took one forwards.

What happened? I told her I feel threatened when she comes so close and that I have avoided her because of it. I said she assumed an intimacy (because we have the same employer, but work in completely different areas) that was not comfortable for me. I had given the issue a lot of thought over the past months and realized: it is not new. I have experienced it before.

I didn’t want to hurt her feelings, but knew I needed to address the issue. During plenum she said something about her family situation, and I responded. Then it clicked: If enough space is there, I can indeed reach out to her. But not when she suffocates me.

So we talked. She thanked me for my openness and admitted that she has a big problem with boundaries — often having trouble defining her own. What a relief! She wasn’t insulted at all! As we walked back to join the others, I noticed she gave me enough space and didn’t walk so close to me. And when we said our goodbyes, she kept a distance as well.

What relief! Now we can start over and work out a comfortable distance between us — or proximity. So I learned once again, it is helpful to address stressful issues with people. Dealing with the situation can bring immense relief!

This was definitely not a huge crisis, but by facing this smaller one, I am practicing for the biggies! The only dependable thing in life is change, and that is inevitably connected to crisis. When things don’t go quite as I expected, I thank God for the gift — even for the bicycle accident last year. That is a true change in attitude. I’m still working on the management part of it.

In any case, I am exhausted. Luckily I have the day off tomorrow.

October 26, 2009 at 8:27 pm Leave a comment

Thursday (almost Friday)

I can’t believe tomorrow is already Friday! I worked all of last weekend (12 hours Saturday, and Sunday 8:30 am to Monday 8:30 am), plus had a very busy week planned. I decided ahead of time that I wanted to enjoy the week rather than simply survive and chalk off each day as I got through it.

And that’s what I did. The two days of company orientation, regular work, project work for the training program, and usual stuff (cooking, cleaning, shopping) filled each day. To be honest, it was more cooking and shopping. This apartment desperately needs some cleaning! Tomorrow I leave for the weekend — until Monday — for yet another exciting weekend of schooling/training. I’m looking forward to it. Topic? “Dealing with Crisis”! Perfect!

It’s such a different feeling to experience each day — rather than dread it. I made the most of what was offered. Last night I opted not to go to the movies after all, and tonight I completely forgot about my yoga class! My thoughts were too caught up in the “school project”. Otherwise, I did all I’d planned to do.

Monday morning brought a bit of a shock. My boss asked me if I had time to talk. Sure. She wasn’t happy about it, but had to explain that we are overstaffed. They need to reduce my hours or find a different area within the company where I could work. I appreciate that they won’t simply fire me. Yet.

At first I was slightly shocked and could feel the tears rising, ready to kick in at the first signal. But then I calmed down and said that perhaps this is an opportunity to learn new things, to widen my horizon. Even if they find something for me that I wouldn’t necessarily choose — it is experience. Perhaps I’ll find something — I have a couple of ideas.

My boss has my interests in mind and doesn’t want to lose me, for which I am rather grateful — to say the least. I’ll see what happens. In any case, I am open and curious about the next steps along my path. Since I trust in the universe, I believe it will all work out — maybe something better will come! Imagine that?! Life can be scary, but I prefer to see the bright side.

October 22, 2009 at 9:37 pm Leave a comment

After a binge

A frequent search phrase is: What to do after a binge? From today’s standpoint, I have various ideas. But I decided to look and see how it was back then. Here’s an excerpt from 1983, during the first phase of recovery. It’s taken from my book:

“Plunging to the depths. The more I fight, the deeper I fall. Tonight was pure shit. Blinded by hateful darkness, vainly seek the simple beauty of each day, with its concomitant sense of renewal. Same old loneliness that I’ve acknowledged, but weeks of cleanness made it so much more intense. And I tried to run. God, please forgive me. Help me. Please deliver me from self-hatred. It’s not the end of the world, but there’s a distorted desire – for utter ruin. To destroy all I’ve been working toward in recent sobriety. [I equated healthy eating with being sober.]

Yet this, too, is a challenge. Do I want to use this misery for all it’s worth – or do I have the courage to renew the connection, swallow my pride, and go on? To return to the path, despite the imperfect record. Why focus on this? Look, will you look at the recovery of the past months. You’ve gone from lost years to intermittent lost days. That is growth. Memory is returning. Despite this momentary confusion, there is a new level of clarity. Now – you can work at further mutilation, or you can go on. The choice is yours.

Dear World, Dear Martha, please forgive yourself. Stuck here writing to myself. Only I can comfort, because only I know the torture and suffering. Keep going, the tears are coming. I am alone. Too proud to reach out. Terrifying – but I must be clear – to realize that I could wipe out everything in just a week. Today was moderate, yet it was $30. Be nice – wash your dirty face, brush those filthy teeth, and go to bed. And let go of the cynic derision and contempt.

Unfortunately, again faced with the fact of how easy it is to be drawn back into past patterns. Two nights ago, I lied to myself. I pretended that I could really just do it once. That was late evening. The next day, Thursday, was lost. Today, I prayed and made it through until the evening. The danger seems to be in feeling too content. When a new level is reached, I want to hold on to it. But that’s impossible. The challenge is to go on, to enjoy the peace and serenity, but to remain aware of the constant change and growth. One must always move forward. I try to stop it, to stand still, but that is only going backwards. It’s so hard to forgive myself. So many doubts return in full force. Especially the fear that the world is humoring me, and laughing scornfully all the while. But in truth, I am the one who laughs and scorns the most. Others may, too, but it’s my inner hate which must be faced.

Oh! 3 am phone call. Nice visit with Mom. Gave her the rundown; asked if she’s disappointed in me. She’s not, she loves me as always, feeling only compassion.”

The message is: self-forgiveness. Looking back, I see that I was overly concerned with disappointing other people when I had a relapse. This added a lot more pressure to an already rough situation. Meanwhile, they weren’t disappointed. No, they just felt sad that I was suffering so terribly. They felt the compassion that I was lacking.

October 20, 2009 at 8:29 pm Leave a comment

Unexpected twist

So much for chilling. My son called a little while ago to ask where the homeopathic flu remedy is. Of course I have it here, and he is at his father’s. I said I would bring it by in the morning, but then realized that by then he might feel really lousy. So I called back and said I’d bring it over.

The rain and fog along the highway put me in a pensive mood. Upon arrival I found an envelope addressed to me — with no return address. It was a death notice from someone who had quite an impact on my life. She wrote her own obituary, which really got to me. It was a long time coming — she suffered and fought her illness for many years. She was one tough cookie.

I brought the medicine upstairs and instructed my husband as to dosage, and then I left. This is the hard part of separation — I would have preferred to stay and watch over my son, but it wasn’t appropriate.

So I drove back home again. Then I read the note again quietly. She had written it in the third person. The last line was: [She] “bids you farewell in deeply felt gratitude for your friendship!” That’s life, too.

October 16, 2009 at 8:45 pm Leave a comment

How not to change a light bulb

Today I bought one of those new-fangled energy-saving light bulbs, and I just couldn’t wait to try it out. So, I switched off the light and prepared to get to work. It’s a light fixture on the ceiling, so there is a glass (or hard plastic?) cover to remove first. That was rather warm, but I managed.

The light bulb was too hot for comfort as far as my bare fingers were concerned. But rather than wait until it cooled off, I was as impatient as a child opening Christmas presents — and got the great idea to simply stretch the sleeve of my sweater over my fingertips. That worked quite well, except that the sleeve was rather twisted after a while. Thus I needed to remove my hand just for a second.

I thought the bulb would stay in the fixture. It didn’t. And it didn’t occur to me to hold it with the other hand. Well, I haven’t dropped a light bulb from 8 or 9 feet for quite some time — if ever. I must say, it makes for incredibly tiny slivers of glass and they really spread out over the whole room!

There is a saying here that shattered glass brings good luck. That’s what I told myself while sweeping up the big pieces and vacuuming the rest. Unfortunately, regarding the future of such lucky incidents: their days are numbered!

That’s right — because they are to all be replaced by these new-fangled bulbs. And the new ones you don’t want to drop. I heard they have mercury in them! That’s no fun! Today in the newspaper, I read that the 100-Watt bulb is nearly sold out. As of September 1st, 100-watt bulbs are not allowed to be produced or imported in Europe. That’s it. But 75- and 60-Watt bulbs still have another two years. Actually, the one that shattered today was a 60-Watt bulb anyway.

So, if you want to have a similar experience, do it now! Time is running out! Because with the new energy-saving light, it is too dangerous! By the way, the name on the package is “Tornado”. What a great name for a light bulb! But it’s not a bulb. What is it called now?

Nah, no deep thoughts today. A busy week draws to an end, and I have to work all weekend, so I’m just chilling out this evening. Not in the mood to worry or contemplate much.

October 16, 2009 at 7:10 pm Leave a comment

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