Sunday, October 20, 2013

Perpetual Worry

My mama sent two boys to Vietnam.  I 've always had a hard time imagining how terrifying that must have been.  One brother was in the Army.  He had a one year tour.  He came home skinny but okay.  The other brother was a Marine.  He was shot by sniper fire in the knee because he was carrying the radio.  He came home within a couple of months of leaving but the scars extended beyond his leg wound.

I have always heard one story in particular that is fascinating to me.  I was only four at the time and because I don't have a memory of it, I rely on the memories of others.  My mother saw an official car drive down the driveway.  She mistakenly thought that if  an official came to your door, there was a death.  She must have gone into a blind panic because as these men got out of the car, she took off her shoes and started throwing them at them and yelled at them to get off of her property. 

Last week the third young man that I knew, in six months, was buried due to overdose.  This young man went to the same high school with the Son.  He was at the same rehab with the Son when he went the first time.  He also attended the second program that the Son attended and they spoke by phone to each other often.  All of those facts caused me to feel that "take off my shoes and throw them" type of reaction.

I guess things never change.  Maybe the impetus of worry is different.  But worry and suffering remain.  It is out of my control.  Those first three of the twelve steps are really the hardest to swallow.  They have layers and layers for me to understand. 

The Son struggles.  And, I struggle to accept.  But, today I do.  I guess that is all that I can ask for.  I am praying for an increase in faith, for your Henry and mine.


Sunday, October 13, 2013

Southern Festival of Books

  I spent a couple of days at the Southern Festival of Books this weekend.  I'd always wanted to go but had never made time for it or really knew what all it offered.  Now that I know how it works, I'm afraid that I will be there every year buying too many books, as usual. 

Yesterday, I heard only one author speak, Rick Bragg.  He was such an entertaining feller, as my Dad would have said.  He writes a monthly essay which can be found in the back of Southern Living magazine.  It is usually an observation of some aspect of a life lived while growing up in the south.  He is a Pulitzer prize winning journalist for the NY Times and the author of six books, all non fiction.  His memoir, All Over but the Shoutin'  is the story of his mother's sacrifice to raise three boys alone after their abusive, alcoholic husband and father  abandoned them. 

I got there a little early and saw him as I was heading in to listen to him speak in a fair sized auditorium.  He spoke to me and looked me in the eye as if maybe I was someone that he knew and couldn't remember. 

Afterwards he signed books.  I got in a very long line and waited while he took time to listen to each person who came up with a book to be signed, who shared a bit of themselves with him, telling him why his book meant so much to each of them.  Many asked for writing advice and most wanted their picture made with him.  When I got up there I wasn't sure what to say but I said, "my grandfather was an alcoholic and it deeply affected my dad and my son suffers with drug and alcohol addiction...."  "Well, then you know these people,"he said while tapping his finger on the pages of his book.  "Yes, I do."  I said. 

And, I thought that maybe I know him too.  And, it occurred to me that he looked me in the eye, not because I was someone that he thought he knew, but that when you know the faces of those in the margins, you make it a point to make sure that you really look at them and others.  When you've loved a person that society discounts, whether you've been angry with them or not, whether they've made their amends or not, you still realize that they are a person. You are careful to look at others knowing that they have a story too.

Maybe I read too much into it.  Maybe not.  His book is really an interesting story.  It is a picture of addiction and poverty which often walk hand in hand. It is an account of a Mama feeling guilty for the way things turned out....  a portrait of the south in all of it's good and bad parts.  It did sound familiar.

Today is one of the last days in the eighties, at least this week.  It seems like summer never ends and then winter just hits.  I did buy books as Christmas gifts.  It was a lot of fun.  I'm learning to enjoy myself....Praying today for all of our loved ones. 

Saturday, October 5, 2013

That Ah-Ha Moment

In the Homeward Bound class at the jail, we talk about awareness a lot.  Many times as I sit and listen to them talk, I am surprised by how unaware they are of themselves.  I guess, foolishly,  I feel very (quite prideful) aware of who I am.  But then something happens to knock me off my self built pedestal which just shocks the socks off of me.

The Son had visited with the Dad and I and we both felt that things weren't going well.  Since I had a few other family crisis to deal with, it was easy to set it aside.  I took him back to his apartment on Tuesday as usual, my mind raced to all of the things that I typically  say to him and each time a thought would come, I would chant this little mantra in my head: " You will just be wasting breath".

It was a pretty quiet ride back.  But, when I dropped him off, I was pretty proud of myself.  It's quite a feat for me to keep my mouth shut.  I had accepted that nothing I could say would change anything.  But then I got home and the other crisis of the day seemed to reach a resolution and so what did I do?  I know all of you fellow Al Anon friends can guess.  I started to worry.  I started stewing and replaying all of the things that he did and said.

I had worked myself up into a big frenzy.  If you saw me in my home, I'm sure you'd ask, " does she have a history of mental illness?"  Somewhere amidst the begging, God, in his annoyance mercy gave me an understanding.  That's the best way for me to describe it.  But, I had maybe a better understanding and awareness of our situation.  It was almost instantly given and it brought peace.

This is the idea that came to mind.  I remembered when we started the process of selling our home, looking for a new one and going to the bank to get a loan.  Asking my ADD brain to do the work needed to complete those tasks was like asking me to climb Kilimanjaro.  Overwhelming can't even adequately describe my feelings during that time.  The Dad is a details machine.  He is in his element with lists and fine print.  Early in the process I told him that I couldn't do those tasks.  I would organize emptying a home that we had occupied for almost twenty years.  I would have yard sales, make trips to Goodwill, organize all those mementos in the attic, pack and move, but please don't make me deal with banks and relators. 

It was the perfect division of labor.  I still had hard work to do, but, the worry left me because I knew that he would handle it perfectly.  All of the sudden, it occurred to me that this was the same.  I couldn't fix my son.  It was too big for me.  If I could trust my husband to handle a move, why couldn't I trust God with the Son.  Suddenly, I was able to understand the relationship that I needed to have with my higher power.  Comparing it to the relationship with the Dad helped me to see that help is there if only I will take it. 

It's a beautiful Saturday here in Tennessee.  Tomorrow our temperatures will drop to the low seventies.  I'm ready for the air to get cooler.  I'm going to clean my house, finish a little laundry, start a new crafty project, walk the dogs and maybe go watch the Dad ride his horse.  That's all possible because I've handed that over ( at least for now) Ha! 

Feeling grateful but still praying.....

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Down the Rabbit Hole

I've mentioned before that I teach a class at the county jail in a program called Homeward Bound.  They teach a lot of classes.  I used to take an Al Anon meeting there and still fill in sometimes but they have plenty of volunteers.  The class I teach lost their volunteer and I naively volunteered. 

I don't  have any training or any sort of psychology degree.  But, the text is written at a sixth grade level so I felt like I could swing it.  There is a training session but it is a four to six hundred dollar course and I would have to self pay as the program has very little money.  I've googled the program and found all sorts of studies done on it's effectiveness but nothing on how to implement it. 

I could follow only the text but as an ex elementary ed teacher, I wanted more.  Since I couldn't find any aids to help me expound on what the text offers, I went to some of the references.  The two books that I bought were Healing the Child Within and Healing the Shame that Binds.  These books deal with addiction quite a bit.  They both refer to twelve step programs a lot.  I can see now why the program coordinator choose a twelve stepper to facilitate this class.

I also asked to teach a writing class.  I teach the classes back to back and we write about some of the exercises in the book.  It has all worked out and miraculously seems to fit together. 

I don't really think you can teach writing.  But, I love teaching others to observe better and then to be able to communicate that to others.  The neat thing that I learned from these books is that in order to heal, you have to remember your story.  They recommend journaling and then going back to "listen" to your story.  As you look at it, you can learn so much about yourself.

I find it so amazing how God put this all together.  I don't know where he will take me next but these things make me look forward to what He has in store. 

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Just Choose It

I watched the documentary G-Dog and the Homeboys.  It is a documentary which followed Father Greg Boyle, SJ for a year at his gang rehabilitation center.  If you ever need a practical how-to on unconditional love, that is the place to learn about it.

I bought the DVD and took it to my Homeward Bound Class at the jail.  They loved it.  I know this not only because they told me so, but they hugged me, smiled at me and even opened the door to cool the room off without me asking when a hot flash hit.  I consider that real progress!

Addiction is one of the obstacles that they work with at Homeboy.  They have AA, NA and other 12 step programs.  They do drug testing and help connect addicts with sober living houses.  Father Greg was talking to one of the kids about turning his life around.  "What's stopping you, he asked?  You just have to choose it.  You- choose- it, that's all." 

I was inspired.  It made me think of my own recovery.  Am I at a place where I choose it?  A lot has happened to us these last three years.  Addiction might have been the thing that captured our attention, but it is just a symptom.  Now, it's time to deal with the problem.  I think it's time to choose.

So, the hard work will begin, but I don't like the alternative.  I sick of where I've been.  I'm ready for health.  So I choose the hard work.  Praying for all of our loved ones.