Wrapped up in a new lifestyle

I decided I had to end my marriage. That was a decision that took heartache, tears, and years to come to.

Prior posts on this blog share many of the reasons. Simply put, it boiled down to being married to an isolated alcoholic who had been emotionally neglectful and abusive. Our relationship had completely deteriorated. I emotionally detached, and I felt the need to make a better life for myself and my daughter.

She and I have been on our own for 16 months. What does our new lifestyle look like?

We have less stress and anxiety, which increases happiness. We have more chores to split, which is tiring. We have made new friends, ones that love us as we are. We have less contact with his family, which is sad. We have turned some good friends into “family.”

I have had the time to explore more of myself and my shortcomings and find ways to heal. Healing is good for the soul.

I’ve been able to start dating. It’s nice to be complimented….that was foreign. It’s nice to have stimulating conversation…that had disappeared. It’s refreshing to have someone put my needs ahead of his….wow. And it’s nice to hear “I’m sorry” if something goes wrong….another thing I’m not used to. It’s refreshing to date someone who inspires me.

I do less with some groups and clubs than I used to. I can’t really explain why, other than that I spent a lot of time doing things simply to be outside of the house when I was married. Now I enjoy being home. Also, I don’t want to be asked questions. It’s easier to avoid some of the curious, nosy, gossipy people.

The people who understand my decision and support me have been a blessing. They may not know it, but their hugs, smiles, or texts sometimes turn an awful day into a good one.

Some people don’t understand my decision. While I certainly don’t need approval, it hurts my core that some of my closest family members are unintentionally obvious about their lack of approval. One particular person recently said about me that “I am so wrapped up in my new lifestyle that I don’t have time for anything that isn’t a part of it.” I have no idea what that means, but it certainly sounds like it comes from anger, resent, or hurt. I don’t know why.

My new lifestyle allows me more freedom. I’m able to open my doors to friends and family to visit anytime they want, or even use my house as a retreat. I’m able to slow down my pace and appreciate my blessings. God’s artwork is appreciated and his presence in my life is invigorated. And, I’ve been lucky enough to be able to support other people who have been in similar circumstances.

I like my new “lifestyle.” Not sure what’s bad about it.

A moral inventory of yourself. Wow.

The twelve steps in both the AA and the Al-Anon program have a 4th step that reads “take a searching and fearless moral inventory of ourselves.”

For people unaware of the principles of AA and Al-Anon, I can assure you that the program is well done and could legitimately help many people, even those not impacted by alcoholism.  So, I start this blog because of how impressed I am by step 4 as I reflect on it myself tonight.  This morning, I read today’s reflection from “One Day at A Time in Al-Anon.” and I’ve been thinking of it all day.

The reflection suggested that most of us use self -justification when we uncover a flaw, suggesting that it was  reaction to someone else’s wrongdoing.  It goes as far as to say that even psychiatrists can’t self analyze because of that block.  But it left me challenged with “personal honesty and humility can achieve what superior knowledge often cannot.”

And so, I begin to try step 4 again.  I can honestly say that my first time through it, I checked generic boxes.  I thought I really knew my strengths and weaknesses, so I just made that list.  After all,  I was  admitting that I was a control freak, that I often started tasks before completing other ones, that I was plagued with anxiety, etc. etc..  Wasn’t that enough?

No.  No, it was not enough.  You see, there is so much more to it than that.  For example, are we willing to ask others what they believe our shortcomings are without making excuses, or challenging their thoughts?  Can we listen to them?  Can we process what they say without trying to self-justify?

For example…..my mom told me that I was very critical and negative.  My instant response was…..how dare she…..I mean she is as negative as anyone I know…..the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree….doesn’t she realize that I have to talk to someone about ugly things…..if it can’t be your mom, who can it be???   Without realizing it, I went right to self-justification.  I didn’t accept it as a shortcoming.

It is a shortcoming.  While I am cautious to never appear anything but upbeat and positive to some, I had failed to realize that I let my guard down way too much around the people I love the most.  I did not put on a happy face for them or present the glass half full.  Why do we give the worst of ourselves to the most important people?  And if I am  as emotionally intelligent as tests show, and I fall guilty to self-justification, then I believe that nearly all of us do.

That being said…..  Can we stop self-justifying?  It’s not easy, but being aware of it as the typical response is important to slowing it down.  For example……if someone tells me that I appear agitated, I hope that I can accept that instead of thinking of all the things around me that cause the agitation.

So, back to step four……once we have the list of shortcomings, we have to be willing to work on each of them one at a time, trying to turn them into attributes.  For example…me being a control freak.  It’s true.

In parenting my only child, I’m certain that I spent way too much time trying to control the perception that others had of her and trying to make her something that she was not.  My daughter is clearly not me, so I should not have encouraged her to do the things that I thought were good for her.  I should have spent much more time asking her for her goals and ideas.  Fortunately, by changing schools in the divorce, she was given a “do-over” and so was I.  She was allowed to “blend in” instead of “stand out” as was the case for me and my expectations.  Thank goodness I realized it before it was too late.  Thank goodness that God and Al-Anon opened my eyes to honesty and the time to deep dive into my shortcomings.  While I’m still a control freak, I’ve realized that there are some things that I must not focus on or else they cause other people unnecessary stress.

Step 4 in the programs can take a long time to accomplish.  If done right, it isn’t a checklist.  It’s a lifestyle change. If alcoholics and al-anon members successfully complete this step as designed, focusing on honesty and humility, I’m certain that they can teach the world a thing or two and that they are headed in the right direction.  I hope to get there someday soon.

 

 

 

 

 

When you need to complain, who do you complain to?

If I’ve said it once, I’ve said it 100 times…….”only vent up.”  In the business world, I taught many leadership courses and mentored developing managers.  This is one of the rules for professionalism that I learned early and did my best to follow personally, as well as to teach it to others.  After all, nobody likes to overhear those water cooler bitching sessions about new policies, other employees, or even management.  If you do like to hear them or get involved in them, reassess your situation.  You might be a negative ninja.

This week, I started to think about “venting” in the personal environment and if similar rules apply.

When I was married to the isolated alcoholic, his venting came only to me, and most of mine (if it was personal) went to him.  Wow….does that help or hurt a relationship?  I can certainly understand that the last thing anyone wants to hear is a bunch of bitching all the time.  My alcoholic didn’t share frequently, but I know I certainly pointed out his negativity to him on more than one occasion.  Should I have?  Or did he need to get it out, and I was the only person who could hear it?

Without realizing, it seems that I have transferred my “vents” to my mother.  I wonder if instinctually, I’m following that rule about venting up?  Is a parent in a personal life like a boss in a professional life?  I’m not sure I have an answer, but I have come to understand that nobody, whether it be your boss or your mom, wants to hear it.  The exception in my mind is that already negative/bitter people may enjoy someone commiserating with them.  Hmmm….  Either way, it really doesn’t do any good.  Rather, just a waste of time and negative energy.

Honestly, I thought I was doing well at being positive despite the craziness of my life the last 12 months.  I have vowed not to ever speak poorly about my ex husband to my daughter, or even in a place where she can hear it.  So far, I think I’ve achieved that goal, which is really important to me.  As a child of divorced parents, it hurt me deeply if I heard anything like this (even if warranted),  I don’t want to inflict that on my child.

What I have witnessed in Al-Anon, is that the majority of members are willing to hear the vents of other members without judgement and also while trying to support them.  The organization and it’s members are important in the healing process for anyone who loves or loved an alcoholic.  The twelve steps, if coached and followed, should help a person to find their own shortcomings and also have less to vent about.  Luckily, Al-Anon meetings are inclusive of people who need to vent as well as others who can listen and help redirect.

If there is somebody negative in your life, do you tend to be more negative when you are around them? Do they bring you down or do you challenge them to find positive alternative solutions?  I think it’s possible to do both, depending on the person or situation.

I can’t say I am offering solutions in this blog, but I hope through my own reflection sharing,  I have encouraged any of you to reflect on the same.  For myself, I’ve decided I might need to give more to God instead of others in my life.  I’ll be more cautious about what I vocalize.  God is willing to listen and take it all.  Our family members, who are close to us, don’t deserve the worst of us.