Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Living with Sorrow

One thing you can depend on is that nothing will stay the same. Life will throw you a curve ball, a slider, a fastball you never saw coming. And everything will be different all over again.

My family got hit with a triple whammy this month. To respect the privacy of others in my clan, I can’t talk about details except to my trusted advisors. I haven’t known what to say in my blog. So I’ve said nearly nothing. But the itty-bitty-shitty committee in my head has been blabbing nonstop. I was told by oldtimers early in my recovery from alcoholism that my head is a bad neighborhood and not to go there alone. But at 1 a.m., 2 a.m., 3 a.m., it’s just me and the darkness and the chatter in my head. It’s a form of torture.

I’ve tried: counting sheep; counting steps on a green path in a forest; guided imagery; breathing; prayer; telling myself imaginary stories; herbals like melatonin, valerian root; tryptophan; wrestling with God; making gratitude lists; reading; even watching late night science programs about recycling. Nothing shuts off the committee.

A nasty bug has been making the rounds here in my town, and many people are falling ill for two weeks, a month, at a time. It settles in the chest and results in pneumonia in some people. I caught it and have stayed home for nearly three weeks trying to fend off another bout of pneumonia.

I’ve resorted to watching television, catching up on films I missed in their theater releases. So far I’ve seen “Revolutionary Road” (what a wrenching movie!), “Julie and Julia” (Meryl Streep’s tour de force), “In the Electric Mist” (James Lee Burke paired with Tommy Lee Jones!), “Nell” (give Jodie Foster an Oscar!), “The Duchess” (wow!), “Secondhand Lions” (loved it!), “Flawless” (another wow!), and “Masterpiece Classics” on PBS. I haven’t watched TV in years, being an avid reader instead. But reading has become difficult. I have, however, worked my way through one-third of award-winning David Brin’s “Sundiver” sci-fi classic.

Being ill, I’ve hit maybe four or five AA meetings in three weeks, and I’m accustomed to six a week. At least for an hour in a meeting, the itty-bitty-shitty committee falls silent. So I browse through what we call the “Big Book,” AA’s textbook, and the “Good Book,” my other “textbook for living.” I’m trying to concentrate on a few passages they contain:

First, on the subject of the “magic magnifying mind” that enlarges whatever it dwells on, there is this:
“When I focus on what’s good today, I have a good day, and when I focus on what’s bad, I have a bad day. If I focus on a problem, the problem increases; if I focus on the answer, the answer increases. … I must keep my magic magnifying mind on my acceptance [of things as they are] and off my expectations [of what things should be], for my serenity is directly proportional to my level of acceptance.” [Pages 419-420]

And this from the Good Book, as it has been quaintly called:
Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near. Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things. … And the God of peace will be with you. [Philippians 4]

I’ve heard it said (by Robert Louis Stevenson) that any man can carry a burden until nightfall which would overwhelm him if he tried to carry it forever. Therefore, focus only on this one day, doing the next right thing a moment at a time, and leave the future in God’s hands, where it rightfully belongs. In my life at this moment, all my needs are cared for. For that, I am grateful.


Zed said...

I feel for you. One day at a time. But firstly put the oxygen mask on yourself and get better. You are in my prayers. Big hug to you. Zed xx

Terra said...

You are sharing a lot of wisdom in your last three paragraphs. I have the Bible quote already in my own list of meaningful quotes, and the magnifying mind quote and the last one are very insightful. I hope you will find some rest and peace soon and that your illness will be healed, since the mind/body connection is strong.

Helen said...

Good morning Chris!
That nasty bug made its way to Bend Oregon too. January 25th my first day, still hacking and blowing ~ dripping and sniffling! My son as well.

As for the rest of your post .... just continue on. Your path is the right path in every aspect.

You inspire!

erin said...

Advice to live and die by, but mostly, live, the next part just comes on its own.

Whatever your burden, you've love. Here's some more.


e said...

Even grief and illness have not prevented you from expressing these sentiments eloquently. Peace to you from one who is also a bit under the weather at the moment.

The Bug said...

I read another blog post today about how churches don't really do lamentations anymore & that they're valuable for showing us how to be annoyed with God, in faith. Here, I'll post the link for you, in case you're interested:

I think my husband has that same committee in his head. I wish I could help the two of you shut it up, but all I can do is be here in the moment in case you need to externalize anything...

I'm glad you're being smart & staying home to recuperate - and I hope you're 100% soon!

Brian Miller said...

mmm..i like that quote...watching what i put my thoughts on today...and i am sorry you have been going through a trying time...ugh...may the sun find you soon enough

Birdie said...

Sending love and prayers your way, hugs.

just jane said...

I am truly sorry to hear of your troubles. I believe that the magic magnifying mind" or as I have misspelled it twice the madnifying mind lacks the answers you seek. There is no answer to sorrow. You must feel it. It is hard to feel when the answer was always to distract yourself.

I like your label...Everybody Hurts. It is one of my go to songs, when I need to let it all out.

I am not in AA, not a recovering alcoholic, and in some circles this diminishes my opinions.

My demon is anxiety. I know it very well. I know that to focus on anything, for me, is to obsess. I work on that every moment. Your comments about chatter, and the torture it brings, is what prompted me to comment.

I send Peace to you, and my prayers. Jane

Karen said...

Chris, I am so sorry that you are going through this. I wondered where you had been, and now I (sadly) know. I love the verses you have chosen here. The ones from the Bible are among my favorite. I also believe in the magnifying power of the mind. Having said that, I also must say that learning not to listen to the nasties in the mind is really hard to do. You have obviously been hit with too many challenges lately. I'll hold you in my thoughts and prayers.

Shakespeare said...

How you are suffering... but your words help me through my own turmoil right now. The quote about focusing is especially helpful right now. Focus on what I love, what makes me happy, what helps, what solves, not on what hurts, what I hate, what leaves me questioning...

I wish I could help you! I hope you get through your illness soon, so that you can get back to your meetings.

Magpie said...

Stay strong...thank you for sharing the song. Sometimes slow and melancholy is soothing.
I will be sure and share your kind words about her poem with my daughter. It will mean a lot to her.
There is no rhyme or reason to life so often...some times good things come our way and sadly some times things are not so good. I think so much depends on what we're able to take away from the bad times.
Lifting you up in prayer.

Rhymetime(aka Pat) said...

Yes Life can cause a crap load of strife.
But as long as we push that away and live for another day.
Things will hopefully get better, even if the rain makes us wetter.
Oh I just said something profound, now I have to stick my head in the ground.
Is this cat wants to remain fun, so the profound stuff is done.
Stay strong and it was a nice song.

Steve E said...

After reading these comments, I can see you have much support right here...and now. Thrive on it.

Frustration, anger, jealousy, Pride. Sometimes these come from those "hundred forms of fear" mentioned in the Big Book. Somewhere in one of those books is a solution for you. Suggest..."The family afterward" also, "To the Wives", both in the BB

Peace for you and yours during these times of trial. God's Will eventually is ALWAYS the winner.

Shadow said...

even though we know what to do, what to say, what to read, the load can be desperately heavy some times... sending you prayers of strength in this time.

Totalfeckineejit said...

I think blogland chewed up my first comment.And you can never do it as good again, I hate that!But,

Great thoughts and words here Chris.I'm sorry for your troubles,and I'm sure you probably don't believe it, but from the outside looking in you show you are infinitely better equipped to deal with them than most.

This bit made me smile...'the itty-bitty-shitty committee in my head has been blabbing nonstop'

mainly because I'm familiar with those little feckers!

All good wishes,

the walking man said...

The only thing I know is be as you are, not as you were or as you may become. Simply be what you are and accept that state of momentary being. then I find I sleep when I need sleep and wake when I need wake.

Andrew said...

I am sustained by the Love of God.

That is my lesson for today.

Much Love to you and yours (Chris)

Jess Mistress of Mischief said...

The only thing that seems to shut the committee off for me is desperate prayer and reading acceptance and pages 52-64 over and over until that crap starts to really get down on paper in the inventory columns.

I hate that I have to get really desperate for me to actually write it out correctly and really get clarity and be willing to get deeply honest with someone else about my fears and inability to act in the correct role assignment.

SHEESH! I just still wanna be God so bad in so many lives around me...


Gabriella Moonlight said...

I am sending you deep love and healing thoughts, to say it gets better only seems trite, but it will and it will again shift...just know that you are loved, that taking some time for yourself is imperative and that the committee in your head, has a lot of chatter with little substance...just know that this too shall pass.

love to you

Syd said...

Chris, I am hoping that all the travails going on for you will lessen. Life definitely is one day at a time. I have got that loud and clear. Take care of yourself. I am doing what I can to stop the committee in my head over here.

Titus said...

Love to you, but also thanks for posting that. Words there that are useful to me.

C.M. Jackson said...

Chris-here is hoping that you are feeling better and that you can focus on the good--it brings good and peace--prayers and thoughts are with you-c

marie said...

wonderful thoughts here. It is so cool how the BB and the Good Book's designs for life are basically identical. (makes sense however, since both were Divinely inspired.)

I hate that damn committee in my head. Next to being in meetings or talking to one of the women I sponsor, writing is the most effective way for me to escape the committee chatter. Thank God I don't have to use alcohol to escape it anymore.

hoping you feel better soon.

Scott M. Frey said...

and you are correct my friend, all we have is this one day... some days it's difficult to be grateful indeed but I can always think back to my drinking days and find gratitude there. I sure do hope you're feeling better Chris!

Drazin said...

Very nice read and nice words, enjoyed reading you blog post even if I don't like bacon fat much haha