Friday, September 30, 2011

Pushing Against the Flow ...

Pushing against the flow

I had a healing yesterday with a dear classmate.   I was examining an aspect of my life that involved a branch on the Tree of Life that is labeled:  Gevurah.   It refers to boundary, structure, discernment,  judgment.   In conversation with this classmate,  what we both discovered is that when Gevurah is in its unhealed state,  it is passive in nature.   I felt so good at the start of my healing work about setting boundaries with others.   The truth was that,  while it looked like boundary-setting by all appearances,  it was a passive arresting of being in relationship.   The "flow"  (or what is known as Chesed -- Gevurah's partner branch on the Tree) is in essence being halted.  It is actually controlling another through what appears to be setting a limit.

Gevurah in its healed state,  on the other hand,  is active.  And,  when it's in relationship to Chesed,  it is a pushing against the flow.   There is conflict, even confrontation.  And there is juicy and meaty relationship !  Boundary setting involves taking a stance and sometimes even fighting for that position.   Not from a place of defensiveness but rather from a place of honoring the boundary that has been set with intention and that is also to be respected.

To draw a line in the sand and say to another:  "you can't cross this"  is passive.  It doesn't allow for the war that is part of negotiating a relationship.   For both of us to keep drawing lines,  moving them, questioning them, stepping our feet over them and stating our intentions for doing so is to be in the active dynamic of Life.  It is an alive engagement !

I have held out the literal and figurative hand to stop others in their tracks.  My will be done.  You will be controlled.   You will not have access to me.   You cannot threaten or hurt me.   This is setting boundaries from quivering terror.  And there is an aspect of this,  which has a palpable sensation,  of cutting another off right in their tracks,  ceasing the flow of human exchange.  It actually feels cruel and harsh.   I did this to many people over the years.

I was in a meeting tonight in which we read Step 1.  I am reminded that I am powerless over EVERY THING.   There is not a blessed thing that I have control over,  even when I act as if I do and,  even more self-centered,  when I act is if I have the RIGHT to.   

Pushing against the flow of Life is to be pulsating with it, dripping in its sweat,  in the thick of its hairy chest and heartbeat.  This is where I have the best chance of seeing God face-to-face in the eyes of another.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Fragile Sparrow

Sweet Jesus
put your hands acoss this fragile sparrow,
dancing against the wind
she is waiting for the storm
to end ...
Only you
these torn wings can mend
For where I've flown
it will take eternity
with you to spend
pain will end.
~ Christine

This poem was one of many found in journals of a woman in my AA community after she died last week. This one was featured on the program for her memorial service held today.

I was with 11 other members of our regular Tuesday night meeting to support her boyfriend, also a member of our group. He looked both stunned and shattered today, drop-kicked into Reality amid all of the photos of his Love, ranging from being a little girl until recently, including a special display with pictures of she and him. Those were the pictures that went straight to my heart and ripped it wide open. Especially one photo which captured them, lips touching, in a tender kiss.

There is no mistake that my healing Teleclass today would have included a discussion about our relationship to Life and Death. My heart is the chamber where profound joy and deep sorrow are nested opposites. I felt both emotions today as I took in the photos and experienced the elation I have about my own significant relationship and, simultaneously, the anguish of feeling the insurmountable sadness that would accompany experiencing her death. Many of us could not imagine being in our friend's shoes and we also related to the surrealness and realness that he was trying to juggle today.

Christine's cousin and her minister offered celebratory comments in honor of her life. The way she touched people. And how she loved Jesus and God. They also spoke frankly yet kindly about her struggles with mental illness and addiction and the courage she had to face each head on and seek help. The most moving part of the service was when her cousin relayed to us the conversation she had with Christine the night before she died. Christine spoke about the physical and mental pain she was in and how weary it had made her. She told her cousin that whenever it's her time to go, she wants her hand extended so that Jesus can take her -- peacefully. This is EXACTLY how she died and how she was found that next morning ... her arm extended across the bed.

The reality of death brings us, if we are open, to meet our own mortality and the preciousness of our life. It has a bittersweet taste and it makes my heart swell. I want to stroke those torn wings and let those tears gently fall as I hold the fragile sparrow that I am.

Herded Back to God

Arratsaldea /// Atardecer by Jabi Artaraz
Arratsaldea /// Atardecer, a photo by Jabi Artaraz on Flickr.
Every waking moment is an opportunity to be shown the way to God. Sometimes, we stray. And, if we're open and willing to our resistance, our avoidance, our doubt ... we can be lovingly herded back.

The shepherd takes all kinds of forms, sometimes not even human form. It may be as subtle as a fleeting thought or a whisper.

My interior has developed its own signaling mechanism to alert the unit known as me that I have gone off course and moved away from God. It can show up as dialogue in my head that has a flavor of victimization. It can appear in the form of mean thoughts about another, compelled to blame or criticize them. It can be the sudden onslaught of cursing out other drivers who are not behaving as I want them to on the road. And, it can be found in my questions such as "Why this?" or "Are you kidding me?" or "What the fuck?"

I am working with a study group from my healing community on my teacher's book about Receiving God. One of the exercises is about holding a difficulty gently and feeling it, without demanding that God show its ultimate meaning, but rather that I take it on faith.

It is being this vulnerable -- in trusting that the difficulty here for me is precious -- that opens up the path back to God. This is Step 3 in all of its powerful Divinity: the surrendering of my will over to the care of God.

Today, I am holding close to my heart the death of a member of my AA community and her Beloved who is here, grieving and lost.

On a lighter note: I am also trying to hold close by, begrudgingly, all of the pesky ants that have invaded my bathroom over the past week. Mostly, I want them all to die. I am incredibly uncomfortable and irritated by their presence, especially when one gets on my skin while I am on the toilet or brushing my teeth. I must trust that something in this too has God-given  preciousness.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011


21st Birthday Cake by Quirky Confectioner
21st Birthday Cake, a photo by Quirky Confectioner on Flickr.
In AA, there is a tradition of celebrating one's anniversary of sobriety as a "birthday". On September 4th, I turned 21. A legal adult.

I am understanding on a deeper level that this is indeed a birth day ... when we get sober and put down the bottle, we are actually beginning to live, to be in the world. The beginnings of sobriety are truly infancy years, just learning how to figure out how the world works and how to be another living being interacting and interfacing with others. There is a LONG learning curve -- in the program of AA. And, I learned the painful life lesson that you don't "graduate" from AA and forget about working on your recovery. It will come back to bite you in the ass and remind you that you are not the one in charge.

My sponsor was at the meeting last night where I celebrated my AA birthday -- complete with cake. Her only words to me were: "You are officially a sober adult and it's evident that you are living like one." I really took that in. Chronologically, I am more than double my sobriety age and, the Truth is, I really am just beginning to live like an adult.

It is said that the age we begin drinking is the age we stop growing emotionally. Alcohol halts this development and we stay "stuck". That would mean for me that I have been a perpetual 16 year old ! Still at that place of not really knowing who I was, who I wanted to be. Constantly looking to the outside to define myself and my feelings. Both awkward and clingy in relationships. Wanting to individuate yet victorious only in rebellious ways. Full of anger and fear. Not wanting to "belong" anywhere so that I did not have to experience being abandoned -- kill off rather than be killed.

On my actual 21st birthday, I got so wasted that I missed most of it. I was still in college and stayed that summer so I could drink in a bar legally (even though I'd been sneaking into them and getting served illegally since I was 19). I blacked out and passed out by mid-day, lying on a lawn chair while others polished off the keg I bought. 

When I was 21,  I was physically dependent on alcohol,  the consumption of which included desperately trying to fend off regular panic attacks.

When I was 21,  I was raped during a drunken episode.

When I was 21,  I became pregnant from that rape incident and had an abortion.

When I was 21,  I graduated from college,  having attended 5 years versus 4 so that I could extend my period of drinking and not be responsible for having to get a "real" job.

What a contrast to experience my 21st AA birthday -- wide awake, present, fully engaged with people and life, in reality. Those former ways of being in the world seem foreign and so distant. It is a life that was lived with the "who was" that existed then. As it is said in The Promises: "We won't regret the past nor wish to shut the door on it." I have to remember this time, as it is a sobering reminder of both the impact of alcohol and of not working a recovery program. I don't ever have to live that way again.

It is a relief and a joy to have a second chance in Life and to turn 21 in a brand new way.