Showing posts with label isolation. Show all posts
Showing posts with label isolation. Show all posts

Thursday, February 28, 2013


Today has been much less strenuous than yesterday.  Death is one of those events that is still shocking, even when it is expected.  The memories seem to pour forth of all the things that person has done, the conversations that have been had, the stories told, the happy times when there was laughter and celebration.  And those memories which keep the spirit of the person alive, also remind me of the loss.

A lingering death is not pretty.  My wife and I wished so much on Tuesday evening that euthanasia was allowed.  If an animal of mine were in such a condition of wasting, surely I would have it put down.  And yet, so much suffering happens every day among humans who simply linger on with a terminal illness.  This isn't a political statement but one that I consider  reflective of love and caring.

As the Higher Power would have it, our fervent wishes to ease Mom's sick and suffering were granted.  Perhaps she knew that we were all there, telling her we loved her, assuring her that it was okay to rest now.  And so that's what happened.

Her body was still warm.  We put her sweater on her, covering up her nightgown that had the Sun, Moon and Stars on it.  And her cat, who had been sleeping on the adjacent bed, came to sit on her abdomen, no doubt sensing death had come.

I talked to my first sponsor last night.  He is on the other coast, but I was so grateful that he called.  Only a few people have called.  We have received a few emails. And the blogger community has been kind and caring with comments.

In the days when I was a child, it was de rigueur to visit the home of the bereaved and drop off something like a casserole, pie, or a flower. I told my sponsor through tears that I didn't want casseroles or cakes or any kind of food, but I longed for the human touch.  I wanted that for my wife.  I wanted her fellowship to surround her. Just to have a friendly face show up and sit for a while would have been wonderful.  No one has come.  Not a single AA or Al-Anon has asked to come by.  I don't understand this as we have entertained so many at this house.  Perhaps this is just the new order of things in which people are busy with their lives and their own problems.  I am working at letting this go, but it is gnawing at me because isolation leads to more sadness.

So this afternoon, I am leaving to visit Pop.  He is being visited by the priest today. He took the news with sadness yesterday but seemed to be accepting.  I know that it won't be long for him though.  Hospice called this morning to say that he is declining, and so morphine and Ativan are being prescribed.  I hope that he will still want to go out for a milk shake, but reality is that his body is also worn out.

We are both grateful for your thoughts and kindness.  All will be okay.  Our lives will get back to some kind of rhythm again.  Death is a part of the rhythm. Here is a poem that an Al-Anon friend sent:

For Grief

When you lose someone you love,
Your life becomes strange,
The ground beneath you gets fragile,
Your thoughts make your eyes unsure:
And some dead echo drags your voice down
Where words have no confidence.

Your heart has grown heavy with loss;
And thought this loss has wounded others too,
No one knows what has been taken from you
When the silence of absence deepens.

Flickers of guilt kindle regret
For all that was left unsaid or undone.

There are days when you wake up happy;
Again inside the fullness of life,
Until the moment breaks
And you are thrown back
Onto the black tide of loss.

Days when you have your heart back,
You are able to function well
Until in the middle of work or encounter,
Suddenly with no warning,
You are ambushed by grief.

It becomes hard to trust yourself.
All you can depend on now is that
Sorrow will remain faithful to itself,
More than you, it knows its way
And will find the right time
To pull and pull the rope of grief
Until that coiled hill of tears
Has reduced to its last drop.
Gradually, you will learn acquaintance
With the invisible form of your departed;
And when the work of grief is done,
The wound of loss will heal
And you will have learned
To wean your eyes
From that gap in the air
And be able to enter the hearth
In your soul where your loved one
Has awaited your return
All the time. 
~ John O’ Donohue

Monday, May 7, 2012

That Moon

I am back from the sailing trip down south.  It was a good time for the most part. The trip down was uneventful on the ICW.  I've traveled that bit of waterway many times.  But the friendly waves of those who travel the blue highway is something that I like.  We look at each other and smile, knowing that we have a special bond.

That moon on Saturday night was spectacular.  I took a bit of video from the boat.  It was getting dark so the quality isn't great.  I had rowed back to my boat from  the host boat's party.  And I watched as that super moon rose in the sky.

I had a nice time at the party, although rowing against the tide to get to the host boat was something else.  I had hoped that those people who had motor powered dinghies would stop by and give me a lift.  But I could see that wasn't going to happen.

I had rowed our dog to shore which seemed like it was about a mile away, come back to the boat, caught my breath, and for a few minutes thought about not going to the party.  I was late and going to have to row against the tide again to get to the party.  The idea of isolating was strong.  What I heard was, "No one will miss you.  They are having a good time.  You are always the odd man out."
But what I did was discard the negative thoughts, got in the dinghy and rowed as hard as I could to get to the other boat.

A number of people were taking photos as I rowed over.  I tossed a fellow my painter line, clambered on board and had a great time.  A few folks commented that I was "hard core".   We talked about boats, super moons, and the places we have been.  I met some new folks who were super nice.  And when it was time to leave, several people asked if I needed a tow back to my boat.  I would be going with the strong tide, so declined their offer telling them to come get me though if I over shot my boat!

Yesterday,  I decided to sail back in the ocean.  The wind was favorable for it, until the cold front came through.  Then the wind shifted, the seas built, and it was tough going.  I came through the jetties into the harbor around 10:30 last night.  And as I was anchoring for the evening, I saw that moon again, rising red  on the horizon.

I was glad to be off the ocean.  After rowing the dog to shore, I cooked some snow crab legs, sat on deck, watching the moon rise and listening to the wind.  I had gotten in at the right time.  The tide was coming in, the wind was picking up, and I was dead tired.

This was another adventure.  My wife was glad to hear from me.  She knew that I was okay because she knows the boat is sturdy and capable.  I'm glad that I didn't miss out on seeing that moon shining on the water.  And I'm glad that those negative thoughts that come to me can be supplanted by a positive action.

Thursday, February 16, 2012


It was a good day yesterday spent taking an old classic sailboat down the coast to a boat yard for surveying.  The potential buyer is coming in today.  Hopefully, the old boat will have a new owner and be restored back to her former glory.  She is a gem that was custom built in 1978 at the Cheoy Lee yard in Shanghai for a former Navy Captain and his wife.  She was sailed throughout the Pacific and then over to the East coast where she was owned by a gentleman who can no longer give her the TLC that she needs.  Yesterday, she moved like a dream, and we all enjoyed feeling the sturdiness of this boat as she was underway.

Last night, calls of confusion came in from my wife's mom.  She was saying that there had been a party and all her china was broken, she hadn't had anything to eat all day, and no one was home.  Jessica, the caregiver, called to tell us that Mom was having a bad day.  Some days she is perfectly lucid and others days she isn't.

An older friend told my wife that some caregivers abuse their patients, slamming them into wheelchairs and slapping them.  We know that Jessica and Brad are great people and treat Mom with love.  And we stop by often to see her.  I suppose that there are those who just reach the end of their rope with taking care of others, whether it's the elderly, the physically and mentally disabled,  or low bottom alcoholics.  We are supposed to have compassion, but the human psyche can only take so much stress.

Sadly, the number of people who have caregiver burnout is increasing as more caregivers take on the job without getting the help they need, or try to do more than they are able to--physically or financially.  Those who are burned out experience fatigue, stress, anxiety and depression which sometimes can result in wanting to hurt those for whom they are caring.

I think that living with active alcoholism has the effect of burnout.  All the positivity of a life can become filled with anger and frustration.  Feeling that there is no one to turn to, no one to share the secret with can create such isolation that life seems hardly worth living.  And the alcoholic is likely feeling the same way--isolated, ashamed, lonely, desperate, filled with loathing.  More than one person gets lost to the disease when there is no respite from it.

We all need breaks from whatever stressful activity we are doing.  I needed it when I was working so I would take vacation days.  We give the caregivers a break by either staying there ourselves or bringing in temporary help.  And I give myself a respite now and then for no particular reason by spending a shining day on the water on an old boat.  Just keeping things in balance. It really helps.

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Accepting what is

Today, for the first time in a few days, I am feeling light-hearted.  I don't want to use the word "happy" because what I feel is more like relief, gratitude, acceptance. And that has lifted the heavy weight from my heart and my head.

Not long after I posted yesterday morning, I learned that my father-in-law was back in the hospital and in an unresponsive state.  My wife and I spent the day yesterday by his side.  He is sleeping. All vitals are good, nothing on CT scans, but an infection is suspected, so he is being given some potent antibiotics.  He does move his legs a bit and his hands some, but mostly he is just sleeping.

C. insisted on staying with her dad last night.  I came home to take care of the animals.  We have talked a lot about death, spirituality, and grieving over the past couple of days.  We are both at peace with what is going on.  If he recovers, that will be good.  If he doesn't, then he has lived a full life, and we will say good bye.

I have felt closed in with self-imposed isolation over the past few days.  I shared about our beautiful old dog with a few close friends.  But I didn't want to talk about it to many.  The comfort that I got here felt like it was enough.  Funny that I don't know you in person, but you have enveloped me as a friend would.  That really means so much.

Sometime late last night, I felt a great peacefulness.  I realized that all of this has meaning, is part of something so much greater than me.  Again, it is a feeling of connectedness to the living and to the dead.  And that connectedness is so precious, so loving that words can't really capture it.  I feel as if I am back from a few days of being lost.

Celebrate endings - for they precede new beginnings.- Jonathan Lockwood Huie

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Victim mentality

Today I visited a friend who has gone 21 years without a drink.  He still has a lot of the "isms" in spite of all those years.  Having not had a job in three years, he got a trick on Halloween in the form of a court summons for failure to make payments on his place.  It's interesting how he blames everyone else but himself for the situation.  Getting a job would be a great start to a course of action that would lift him up.  I keep my mouth shut and wonder at the power of alcoholism that manages to have a hold on someone even after so many years without a drink.

Being a victim of circumstances in life and exuding negative energy makes a person difficult to be around.  I see how the self-centered alcoholic thinking narrows the universe down to just what is in their sphere.  I used to wonder how alcoholics could only be concerned about themselves.  Now I see that being a victim, whether alcoholic or not,  tends to make a person think mostly about what their problems are.  People who are victims seldom seem interested in what others are doing because all the focus is on their own situation.

What if a person decided to stop being a victim and focus outside of themselves, broadening the world to include others and inquire after their happiness?  I think that is where a real difference can be made towards having a life that is full and rewarding versus one that is confined and negative.  But it takes a real change in attitude and behavior.

I don't know if my friend has victim mentality.  I know that I did for a long time.  I blamed the alcoholic for most of my unhappiness, until I began to wonder who had erected the prison that I was living in.  No one was forcing me to stick around for emotional abuse.  I did that willingly.  When I came face to face with my own victim mentality,  I began to see that the walls of isolation and self-pity were erected by me.

Moving away from being a victim and accepting my part was key to having healthy relationships with others.  I have no one to blame but myself if I stick around for abuse.  I am glad to have stopped wondering who is doing what to me and why.  I can look at what I am doing which has made a huge difference in my life.

Friday, October 28, 2011

Steering a course

The acorns are falling from the trees, making pinging sounds as they hit the roof and the deck.  A recovery friend is trying to grow oaks from acorns. He plants them in containers, waters, and checks to see if the acorns have produced a seedling.  His goal is to plant oak trees around his house.  His goal is laudable and his enthusiasm brings a smile.  He has not been successful at much in this life, so I hope that an oak will peek through the soil eventually.

Another recovery friend is once again seeking shelter after having rented a room with a woman who had a couple of months of sobriety.  She has relapsed badly, been arrested several times, and the rent money that he paid was used on booze.  The water and electricity were cut off, so he is in limbo.  He has a talent for writing and photography but can't seem to find a roommate who isn't taken drunk ever so often.

Yet another recovery friend is depressed and brings his fear into a meeting.  People talk about solutions such as religion and therapy.  I inwardly cringe because these are outside the purview of Al-Anon.  My sharing is about service work helping me to get outside of my own sick thinking.  Being alone with the killer who wants me to be filled with fear and self-loathing isn't a good idea.  So he went to lunch after the meeting yesterday which is a start.

I am getting towards the end of a course on advanced piloting.  The exam is coming up soon.  Calculating set and drift is interesting.  I can determine the course a boat needs to take to get to a given location at a given time based on the current and wind.  I wish that we could navigate as well as humans.  So many of us don't correct our course until we are well up on the rocks.

Hoping to make this day one in which I steer a good course.

This is the true joy in life: the being used for a purpose recognized by yourself as a mighty one; the being a force of nature instead of a feverish, selfish little clod of ailments and grievances complaining that the world will not devote itself to making you happy. I am of the opinion that my life belongs to the whole community, and as long as I live, it is my privilege to do for it whatever I can. I want to be thoroughly used up when I die, for the harder I work the more I live. I rejoice in life for its own sake. Life is no 'brief candle' to me. It is a sort of splendid torch which I have got hold of for the moment, and I want to make it burn as brightly as possible before handing it on to future generations. ~ George Bernard Shaw

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Storming within

A weather front turned this warm fall day into a rainy and windy one. That was the atmosphere at the noon meeting too where one of the long timers pounded the table because he has given up, isolated and lost his spirituality over the past two months.

With pamphlets and books bouncing as he pounded, he told of feeling worthless and unloved, of being angry with God for letting his father beat his mother, and for not wanting to trust or reach out to anyone. I imagine that for others, besides me, his behavior was a reminder of unmanageability that we have acted on or experienced from others. Yet, after the meeting, he was hugged and told that he had been missed.

I know my experience of feeling less than and disliked by others comes from long ago rejections. I shared with him that I still can get caught up in a swirl of negative thinking and self-pity. What has helped me to quiet the storm within is knowing that my perception is distorted--not everyone is out to get me. They are most likely just trying to get by and may be experiencing their own moments of doubt and pain due to their shortcomings. We are so similar in our humanness because we each have been wounded by living life. Once I realize that others react because of their own set of circumstances, I understand and have compassion for our human condition. We are all struggling in some way to quiet the storms within. I hope that he will find his way.

Sunday, October 2, 2011

The forgotten

I was listening to music this morning as I cooked breakfast. John Prine's "Hello in There" was playing. It's about an old couple who are lonely and basically forgotten. For me, it is an incredibly sad song:

"Me and Loretta, we don't talk much more,
She sits and stares through the back door screen.
And all the news just repeats itself
Like some forgotten dream that we've both seen.

Someday I'll go and call up Rudy,
We worked together at the factory.
But what could I say if asks "What's new?"
"Nothing, what's with you? Nothing much to do."

Ya' know that old trees just grow stronger,
And old rivers grow wilder ev'ry day.
Old people just grow lonesome
Waiting for someone to say, "Hello in there, hello."

Th thought of being old and alone has haunted me for a long time. I know somehow that is what will happen. It will be a self-fulfilling prophesy. And it makes me sad.

Maybe that is why I am so glad to talk to old people and not pass them by. I went by an adult day care the other day and the folks there were happy to chat and share some stories. So many old people are left in nursing homes. They desperately want someone to notice them and to take time to say "Hello".

My parents-in-law will not be among the forgotten. The live-in couple are there. All seems to be going well. I am relieved. My wife is cautiously optimistic. If they can get past the political opinions of my father-in-law, the situation may work.

I know that if we are lucky enough, we will live to be old. Medical technology helps us to live longer. How we live and what we have to look forward to is largely up to us. I cannot think about being alone in the future. Today, I can give a smile and a kind word to those who desperately need it. No one need be forgotten.

Monday, July 25, 2011

Why I need to have healthy boundaries

Most of us who come to Al-Anon build walls to hide the pain of a life with alcoholism.  I started building those walls when I was a kid, trying to cover up my shame and creating a fantasy world through reading and walling myself off from the dysfunction.  What I didn't realize at the time was that I had only some broken down fences with which to establish boundaries for myself.

When I first heard about boundaries, I knew that I had breached many with a lot of people. And I had no good idea how to establish those that I needed to take care of myself other than by isolating. By admitting that I was powerless over others and accepting that I could not make anyone do anything, I have gradually learned that a healthy boundary is one that I can enforce.   It isn't one in which I ask the other person to establish the boundary for me.

I can remember warning my wife before going to parties that we would have to leave if she drank too much--as if that had any affect on her.  I couldn't control her drinking.  I couldn't make her leave.  What I realize now is that a good boundary would be saying, "I'm going to leave".  That is a boundary that I can stick by.

Broken down fences are like broken down defenses because I'm left vulnerable to whatever may decide to jump, slide under, or glide through the fence. And I've had to shore up my boundaries with those who are potentially "toxic".
It's a familiar thing in Al-Anon. How to deal with someone in our life who is causing a great deal of pain? Detaching with love and setting boundaries are good ways to do that.

I realize that people who don't have a positive input into my life can be draining.  I have to decide what is best for me.  This is not an easy solution but one that I have come to understand by putting my best interests first.  I simply don't have much time for those who are selfish and think only of themselves.

In the past, putting the needs of others first and mine last has done a lot of damage.  I now look at damage limitation  because my energy resources are low, my physical resources are limited, my emotional resources have been battered and I have been beaten down so badly for many years.  I have to be kind to myself so that I stand even a chance to recover from the affects of alcoholism and find some quality in my life.

So I have learned that I do not have to take on the whole world's needs before looking to my own. Others forget I have needs, because I have not shown them I do.  I would be strong regardless of how bad I felt.  I thought that not being otherwise would leave me vulnerable.  I now know that I have a right to have needs too.  I do not surround myself with totally selfish people who have no thought for me except to use me to make themselves feel better or as a sounding board for all they cannot cope with, with no regard to what that does to me.

I got to the point before the program that I didn't like hurtful people in my life, but I also didn't know how to get them out of my life or how to detach from them. It has taken me a while to realize that I don't have to like everyone nor do I have to stick around those people who have the potential to be harmful to me. I used to try to ignore them but found that it's hard to ignore the elephant in the living room. Turning the other cheek never worked because I would just get slapped on the other one. And I don't wish to be a martyr. Now, I'm done with people that I don't want to be with. I inventory myself and make a decision on whether I want the drama or the potential of a serenity "breaker".

"In the last analysis, the individual person is responsible for living his own life and for "finding himself." If he persists in shifting his responsibility to somebody else, he fails to find out the meaning of his own existence." Thomas Merton

Monday, July 18, 2011

Getting back up

Tonight's meeting was a good one.  A relative newcomer had the topic which was actually a question: How do you get back up when you keep getting knocked down?  There are some days when it is hard to see any sanity amidst the insanity of alcoholism.  The knock downs of the spirit come over and over, we reel in fear and uncertainty,  until a person is eventually sent to their knees.

Getting knocked down over and over will either cause a person to give up or eventually cause so much pain that they stand up and decide that something has to change.  Each person will decide to either live in the problem from now until death or make a decision to seek a solution that leads to a new life.  It is truly our choice.

I think that I was tired of making the effort to pretend any more.  It was very lonely living a lie.  Alcoholism creates a sense of isolation that is pervasive.  There was no one to talk to about what was happening in our home.  The therapists I saw didn't acknowledge the impact the disease had on me. I couldn't talk to colleagues.  The only close friend that I had confided in, decided that he didn't want to be friends anymore.  It was too hard to take that the "perfect" couple weren't perfect. 

Eventually, there are few options left.  For me, the only option was to get away from the stress, drama and emptiness by leaving the relationship.  Just mentioning that was enough to send my wife straight to AA.  And I went to Al-Anon to try to save myself.  I was one of the lucky ones that decided something had to change.  I had no luck at changing the other person, so it was time to focus on me.  Everyday that is what I do: focus on my life, my recovery, my standing up in the face of any number of life's challenges.  

Tonight the newcomer had a simple list of his problems in the relationship with his alcoholic wife.  These were the things that he wrote down while sitting at his desk:

no resepct
no trust
wanting love
wanting to trust
wanting respect
no friends
And opposite these, he wrote: "Oh God, please help me."

It is a rough place to be--to realize that we truly are powerless over what others do.  Acknowledging this means choices have to be made.   So we either stay stuck and beaten down or we do something totally out of character--we begin to change because waiting around for the other person to do that or trying to force those changes doesn't appear to be working.  It is what got me back up on my feet--knowing that I had waited too long for something to happen with the other person.  It was time for me to take action for myself.  And what a difference that has made.

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Unrealistic expectations

Some times I go to an Al-Anon meeting and I don't hear what I think I need to hear.   That happened to me last week.  I went to a meeting where one of the members was being critical and controlling.  It bothered me.  In fact,  I held onto the resentment for the better part of four days.  It was there over the weekend, turning over in my mind to diminish the otherwise happy holiday. 

And then last night,  I walked into a meeting in which I heard what I needed.  I didn't want to go to the meeting last night.  I was tired from the weekend.  I lay down on the bed and thought about taking a nap, yet I had the nagging feeling that I needed to get to the meeting.  So I threw on some pants and a shirt and went.

When I was walking to the door,  a lady that I know came up to me and said that she needed to hug me.  She started crying and said that her favorite brother had been taken off life support and was likely already dead.  Her tears and words made me realize that nothing is coincidental.  Sometimes I come to meetings with unrealistic expectations.  But if I come with my various needs and problems,  I can be assured that there will be someone there who will share words that will help me to get back on the right path, if I choose to listen.

My ego can block my ears and my heart.  I will instead spend time on judging and being critical, rather than focusing on compassion and acceptance.  Just because someone may not be doing things the way that I think they should be done, does not mean that I have to take their inventory and build a resentment.  It is easy to be critical and harsh.  That is what alcoholism has done to me.  It makes me want to isolate, blame others, and feed me lies about how I know more than others.

I know enough to realize that when I get in a critical and judgmental mindset then I have no spirituality going on.  I have nearly walked out of several meetings and actually did walk out of one.  I was mad at Al-Anon and mad at the stupid people in the meeting.  Thankfully, last night  I was able to get back on track with a good meeting on Step Seven.  I decided to close my eyes and "feel" the energy of the room.  I can tell you, I was a very different person than the one who showed up at that meeting.  I got what I needed and walked out with a lot of gratitude.

It is good for me to have a lesson in humility.  I have to let go of what I think things should look like and how I think things should go.  All I have to do is show up,  have willingness,  and an open mind.  I realize that the right people have been put in my path to help me to accept the hugs and have the experience of loving kindness.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Fully self supporting

The Seventh Tradition says that we are self-supporting through our own contributions.  I understand the financial aspect of that as it relates to meetings and every day life.  But there are some other aspects of being self-supporting that are worth considering.

Being fully self-supporting means that I take care of myself. It is not taking care of another nor expecting others to take care of me. Assuming responsibilities for others robs them of their dignity and self-respect. To depend on another to fulfill my needs or carry out my responsibilities invites disappointment and resentment.

I have conceded that the troubles that I've had in relationships are of my own making. If I didn't accept that, then I would be saying that the things that happened to me were caused by other people or things. And the corollary to that fallacy would be that I would have to get the people or things to change if I were to get better. I know though that I'm powerless over others. So I don't put myself in the victim and self-pity mode much anymore. That way of thinking brings with it depression and a grinding, oppressive sense of defeat.

Being emotionally self-supporting was not the easiest thing to grasp. After years of relying on outside opinions to feel good about myself, it was hard to believe in myself. I would think that if only my wife would stop drinking and be happy, I would be okay. If only my father weren't so critical, then I would be okay. If only...if only....

I have wasted a lot of years taking care of others' business, especially that of the alcoholic in my life.  I gave and gave, martyring myself, and then building a resentment when what I had done wasn't appreciated or acknowledged. 

No one ever did anything to me that I didn't let happen.  And I've had to come to terms with the fact that the things I let the people I love the most do to me were those things that I would never have tolerated in a colleague or casual acquaintance.  So one of my solutions is to be wary of those who are toxic for me.  Not every one can be a true friend.  But I can't run everyone off because my spirit is one that has a desire to be with others.  

I've often thought that it would be nice to not need others and to truly be fully self-supporting.  But in the long run, the words "No man is an island" comes to mind. I know that I do need others in my life and that isolation for me isn't a healthy thing.  It is okay to let the drawbridge down and allow others to enter my domain.  I can just be a bit choosy about who I let in.  What I have to remember is that the support that I receive that is the most dependable is from my Higher Power and those within the Al-Anon fellowship. 

Another aspect of being fully self-supporting is that I don't have to be all things to all people. I can still be a good soul today without having to be a husband, friend, counselor, therapist, problem solver for anyone else.  And I don't have to expect those things from others.  I can let go of any expectations that I have and simply take what I like and leave the rest. 

So in the long run,  I am fully self-supporting with a few caveats:  1) I need others in my life but can not impose my expectations on them; 2) I need a Higher Power in my life because it is my soul and spirit that support me; and 3) I am part of a whole--I don't need to be everything without asking for anything.  I can ask for what I need and in doing so, I become apart of and not separated from. 

Al-Anon has helped me see how deficient I was in being emotionally self supporting. I realize now that my life doesn't depend on anyone's approval. I need for my life to depend on my own emotional support, and God's help. Sure, there are slips. But all in all, I'm realizing that I have the right to be happy and responsible for my own emotional welfare.

Saturday, June 26, 2010


I picked C. up at the airport this evening.  She had a really good time but was glad to be home.  I was glad to have her home.  I don't think that I am meant to live alone.  Maybe I would get used to it in time but there is something sad about a big house with only one person living there.

Before C. got home today,  I did some tidying up--did the laundry and washed a few dishes.  I don't make much of an imprint in this house in terms of messes.  I use the kitchen, the sunroon, the bathroom, and the bedroom.  The rest of the house and its rooms are hardly ever used or even walked in.  The house in truth is a "museum" for the many antiques that come from both our families.  And since our family now consists of her mom and dad, the house isn't filled with relatives, children, or many other visitors.

All this got me thinking about whether I would stay here if there weren't the two of us.  Having this house and land was like a dream for us.  But I can see that without an extended family, it could become a place to isolate.  It is filled with memories, but people make the memories for me.  The things are reminders of the people who ate at the table, who used the china, who walked on the rugs, and who made some of the furniture.  Without people, the house just isn't much of a home.

So I am glad to have C. back with her laughter and stories about her friends and Nantucket.  She brought me a worry stone from the beach.  That's probably appropriate for me, although I don't worry nearly as much as I used to.  I would have worn out a worry stone a few years ago.  She brought me a couple of shirts from the Whaling Musuem and one of them has a Compass Rose on it.

She barely glanced at the place in the yard where the boat had been put up on blocks and all the work was done.  I couldn't explain that effort to her.  It was a mini boat yard until yesterday. Now,  it is just a patch of dirt in the drive with a few globs of blue bottom paint and some boot heel prints still visible.  I simply told her that it had been hot and hard work.  What I didn't say was that it kept me busy and kept away loneliness until I was too tired to think and would just fall into bed. 

And somehow with her voice calling to the dogs and the sounds of the frogs and night insects, the house has now become a home again.  And the two of us are a family.  I am grateful for that.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Nasty work

I have been working too hard these past few days. I pulled the boat out of the water, got the mast down, and trailered it home.

Once there the process began on scrapping the bottom after power washing it. What marine life wasn't removed had rotted. It has been hot, dirty and smelly work to scrape and remove barnacles and oysters.

I removed the 700 pound keel after using every brain cell to figure out how to jack up the boat high enough to let the keel all the way down. Somehow that got done without crushing me or the boat. Once the keel was removed, the worst of the marine growth up in the keel slot had to be removed with a flat bar.

Yesterday was comparatively easy because I painted the prepped bottom for 8 hours. Last night I was so stiff and tired that I wondered how I would make it to do another day of labor. But this morning found me feeling limber again.

I feel as if I have had little time to do anything other than hard labor. So at noon I met a sponsee for a cold soda and talked about the seventh step. I needed that meeting. Being on the island and not having C. there has been isolating. I don't think that I did this on purpose, but work became the focus instead of meetings.

A friend came stopped by the other day. He had been splitting up enough oak wood to fill his truck bed.  It was good to talk to him and simply have another soul who appreciated the labor that was done.  We both commiserated on our aches and pains.  He then left to go home to dinner with his wife.  I eventually went inside, fixed a hamburger, and then fell into bed.

The good news is that in another day or so and the boat will be ready.  And in another day or so C. will be coming home.  It has been two weeks since she left.  In those two weeks I haven't managed to mess up anything and have gotten a lot of things done.  Sometimes the nasty work has to be done.  It's not necessarily what I want to be doing but the sense of accomplishment is making me feel good.

I haven't had a lot of time to think about being lonely.  Only at night when the work is done for the day and I lie awake for a few minutes reviewing my day do I think about my solitude.  I know that it would be really easy for me to isolate and just keep working at task after task.  The persecution of self runs strong within me.   But for today, I'm glad to have gotten off the island, had some Al-Anon time, and am actually going out to a Mexican restaurant tonight.  Whooee! A big night on the town for this fellow.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Humbly asked

I have a sponsee who seems to not quite comprehend what humility means. He insists that he is right about so much. He recants stories to me about how he lost his last job, only to carry the same argumentative, defensive behavior over into a new job. Even when there is no point in arguing, he likes to get the last word in.

I don't think that I fully understood humility either until I got the necessary emotional flailing that helped me to finally begin to see there was another way. For me, I had to experience enough discomfort with what I was doing that change became necessary. I wasn't going to be humble if I clung to arrogance and self-righteousness.

Humility is a precious thing because it goes hand in hand with gratitude and serenity. I had relied so long on my own self-sufficiency that it was difficult to let my defenses down enough to even think about being humble. But once I came to believe that I could no longer carry my life's burdens by myself, I was willing to have a new way of thinking that included humility.

Humility isn't a negative quality, and it doesn't equate to humiliation. For me, it is an awareness of my shortcomings balanced with a sense of pride in my achievements. I have decided that simple awareness of who I am is humbling.

I have used my isolation, my being better than or less than, and my fear to assign blame. I can see that my sponsee has the same thoughts. It is easier to blame others than to admit that I may have shortcomings. But none of that brought me any peace or greater understanding of happiness. I could not manipulate my way through life to get my way.

I am glad to have reached a place where I no longer have to constantly defend my position. Instead I see how I can be more useful to others. And that is something that generates a lot of good feelings about me and living life.

“Humbly’ means seeing myself in true relation to my fellow man and to God.” - Lois’ Story

Monday, January 4, 2010

I can relate

One of my favorite sea faring stories is about the great French solo sailor Bernard Moitessier. He perhaps is best known for his participation in the Golden Globe Race to circumnavigate the earth alone and non-stop. As he was on the last leg of the journey, having come around Cape Horn and its fearsome winds and waves, he decided to continue sailing rather than return to England where the race would end.

His decision to quit the race was largely due to his becoming comfortable with his solitude. Although driven and competitive, he did not want to return to the crowds, cameras, fame and a sailing trophy. Instead, he sailed on for three more months. Although he abandoned the race, Moitessier still circumnavigated the world, crossing his path off South Africa, and then sailing almost two-thirds of the way round a second time, all non-stop and mostly in the Roaring Forties.

I can relate to Bernard as today I feel like withdrawing. It is my first day back at work after a lovely few days of holiday. I actually don't want to deal with the onslaught of emails and meetings that are already being scheduled to fill up the week. But mostly, I received a sad shock that a colleague of mine died in an accident at his home on Dec. 31. He was an avid dog lover, a good sailor, and an exacting scientist.

So I can relate to sailing on and not getting back to the madding crowd. Thankfully, tonight I have my home group meeting. And thankfully, I can appreciate with full gratitude all that I do have in my life. No matter what may be happening around me, I can stop, say a prayer, regroup, and keep moving. I like the idea on the Just for Today prayer that "I will try to live through this day only, and not tackle my whole life problem at once. I can do something for twelve hours that would appall me if I felt that I had to keep it up for a lifetime." Amen to that.

You do not ask a tame seagull why it needs to disappear from time to time toward the open sea. It goes, that's all. Bernard Moitessier

Monday, October 12, 2009

Scenes from the weekend

I thought that I'd start off this Monday with some photos from our voyage along the Intracoastal Waterway to Capers Island.

We had a nice easy trip. It takes about 3 hours to get there and we arrived about an hour after dark on Friday evening.

As we were transiting there were some interesting sites along the way. We passed under the Ben Sawyer Bridge which is an old swing bridge. And just beyond that is a place of intrigue, Goat Island, which is a tiny island located on the ICW behind the resort island Isle of Palms. There is an interesting story about Goat Island (The following is excerpted from an article by Maria Zone).

In the early ’30s, a man and his wife lived there without electricity or water. The man, Henry, was a local who decided to free himself from the stresses of modern society. The couple were repelled by development occurring so they retreated to seclusion on their own deserted island – an island whose only inhabitants were a herd of goats.

Even though the Goat Man and his wife only lived 200 yards from the shore of the Isle of Palms, they shunned the developers and life on the far side of the waterway. They learned to naturally accept what God provided them with, drinking rainwater and eating the native vegetation. The island provided them with shelter from the rain, shade in the summer and firewood to knock off the chilly winds of winter.

They lived au naturelle, collecting discarded debris that drifted onto the shores and into their lives as the tide changed. They were true purveyors of the floatsam and jetsam of society.

The Goat Man and his wife eventually accepted visitations from those curious people who transited the waterway in their yachts. They were gracious to those who offered sandwiches and leftovers from a day of picnicking on nearby Dewees Island.

During the Goat man’s 32 years of self-imposed exile, civilized people in nearby communities knew that the Goat People were out there, across the waterway. But people denied the possibility that their simple lifestyle was a choice and the couple was sane.

The legend continued over the years. Children were told that the island was haunted because of the voices and sounds that were heard across the water. Some children dared to cross the short distance from the Isle of Palms to Goat Island to see for themselves. They discovered that the alien sounds were the soulful singing of a content, solitary man.

In 1961, after 30 years of living in the natural elements, the Goat Man accepted a small hut as a Christmas gift from generous neighbors who were concerned that the couple was too old to live an unsheltered life. But soon after they moved in and took shelter from the same elements of nature that had provided for them in the past, tragedy struck. The Goat Man caught pneumonia and died. His wife, Blanche, was left to carry on the legend and tradition alone.

Blanche lived on without her husband in solitude on Goat Island for almost a year. But tragedy again struck. She died from burns received in a fire caused by the wood burning stove that was also a handout from her civilized neighbors. Their paradise was left deserted to be overrun by looters who destroyed the organization of uncivilized life, in search of hidden wealth and buried treasure.

The only investment that the Goat Man and his wife ever really treasured was their partnership with nature and the life it yielded them. Their paradise didn't include material things, prestige or social acceptance. There was nothing there that looters could steal either before or after they died. Instead, their wealth was their ability to live a quiet life in full harmony with their surroundings.

I think that I would like to live like the Goat Man at times. And for a few days I did. Here are a few more photos from the trip.

Photos from top:

Ben Sawyer Bridge on ICW

Goat Island on Waterway

Maritime Forest on Capers

Large alligator sunning

Bone yard on Capers

Bone yard at sunset

Thursday, August 6, 2009

Solitude or isolation?

GG wrote a great post on her blog G-Log about solitude versus isolation. She writes:
"To me, there’s a fine line between Isolation and Solitude. The isolation-part was and is very painful, where I'm expected to feel shame, resentment, of no-value as a part that doesn’t fit, nor wants to..... The solitude-part has always been wonderful and constantly grows in value and importance. The isolation part has to do with abandonment, betrayal, rejection, much fear, verbal self-abuse, self-loathing and bitter resentment."

I never thought about it as she described: the difference between solitude and isolation. I remember liking solitude when I was a kid. I could play, read, paint, and do any number of things for hours without feeling sad or lonely. I believe the solace of solitude left me as I matured and became more aware.

Somewhere along the way I began to feel that I didn't want to be alone--that there had to be someone there to share things with. This is probably when the co-dependency took root. I crossed the line from being happy with who I was to being melancholic and not in sync with myself. I believe that is when I began to isolate.

I don't know what brought about the transition from being at home with solitude to isolating. I have heard many alcoholics speak about how different they always felt, like they never fit in. Well, this Al-Anon felt that way early on in life. I learned to mask it well. I could be happy go lucky on the outside but inwardly I felt insecure around others, ashamed for friends to come over on the weekends, and wanted to hide what went on between me and my alcoholic wife. I truly isolated during those times.

I also know that I felt unhappy many times after I first met C. I began to attach far too much significance to her and much less to myself. And ultimately when I forgot who I was, I began to feel despair, self-pity, and isolation.

This joyless isolation was the behavior that I adopted as a result of the affect that alcoholism had on me. My life was dominated by the alcoholic drama. I couldn't count on myself or anyone else. I lost the idea that I had anything to offer because I was so caught up in what others were doing. There was no energy left over for me after the emotional drain of trying to fix the alcoholic or clean up their mess.

I think that my feeling "apart from" was an adaptation that I developed to distance myself from the crazy alcoholic relationships in my life. It was easier to beat up on myself and to build walls than to deal with the pain of living with alcoholism. I think that this is how I shut myself off from the "sunlight of the spirit".

I am grateful that I've learned to not shut myself off from God and being with people. Today I do those things that I enjoy. I don't want to isolate anymore. Instead, I can appreciate once again the solitude in which I write, meditate, play, and have a free spirit as I once did. And I can appreciate my own uniqueness. I have found who I am.

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Some Wednesday thoughts

Here's some thoughts about today:
  • I am still tired from vacation. I need a rest from resting.
  • I am glad that the dogs and cats were happy to see me.
  • I worried because one of the dogs was throwing up
  • After cleaning up vomit for an hour, she seemed fine.
  • I'm glad that someone invented Oxyclean
  • The yard looks wonderful with lots of flowers blooming
  • I picked lettuce this morning from the garden.
  • My blackberries and blueberry bushes have flowers
  • I have felt a bit out of the loop at work since coming back from vacation.
  • I realize that I isolate too much when I'm tired.
  • I am going to walk around and visit staff today and connect more.
  • I filled out a form at the Holocaust Museum about what I would do to carry the message
  • I wrote that I would do my best to fight injustice and to love instead of hate.
  • I would like to go rowing tonight but severe thunderstorms are forecast
  • One of my former employees was named MVP of the whole state agency.
  • I'm happy for her because she is a hard worker.
  • I don't think that I want a retirement party
  • I would rather slip out the door without any hoopla
  • I realize that's related to one of my character defects
  • I have been thinking of my mother whose birthday was April 30
  • I miss her and the good conversations that we had
  • I know that Mother's Day is coming up and that makes me a bit sad.
  • I can tell that I need a meeting.
  • Yet, I feel disengaged from that too because of being away.
  • I think that the goal for this day is to engage more, talk to my HP, and isolate less.
To live a spiritual life we must first find the courage to enter into the desert of loneliness and to change it by gentle and persistent efforts into a garden of solitude.
--Henri J. M. Nouwen