A Better New Year in 10 (somewhat manageable) Steps

2019

By: Jana Greene

Well, well, well….

It seems I just got used to writing “2018” on my checks (yes…I still use checks) when BOOM! – it’s a brand new year.

I’ve never been big on New Year’s Eve, even when I was a drinker. It was not my style to do the party circuit; I was more of a “lock myself in the bathroom with a whole bottle of wine” person.

Alas, it has been 18 incredible years since I’ve had a drop of alcohol. And that, my friends, is a miracle of such magnitude that Moses parting the Red Seas pales in comparison. I had all the emotional fixins’ to prime me for alcoholism, and an alcoholic I was.

Am, actually. I won’t graduate from alcoholism.

This year, I will try to intentionally pour emotional resources and time into my recovery. Meetings with my 12 Step tribe and self-care strategies will become more of a priority; one that I have not been as vigilant about in 2018 (and struggled as a result.)

I would very much like to say – or at least pretend – that I am past it now, the drinking – and that I am a wise and sage maven of serenity. That I have my shit together and have written books about ultra spirituality, and meditate regularly. Although I HAVE written books, I assure you that I don’t have all the answers and never will, and have exactly 0% of my shit together.

I CAN however make some realistic resolutions (a.k.a. “goals”) and so can you. These are just a bunch of ideas for actions that are both little and incidental, and huge and profound. They are things that I can control – unlike every other dang thing in the universe, which is chaotic and unresponsive to my control-freakness (damn it.)

In 2019…

1. I will give myself credit for doing things right.

In today’s world, the focus is on what we DON’T accomplish, and that kind of self-flagellation is right up my alley. As a person with chronic and painful health conditions, I never get nearly enough done.

At the end of the day, I may have cleaned two rooms, which means I will obsess about the other six that didn’t get touched and look like three cats have thrown cat parties in them. Because we have three cats, and every day is literally a party for them.

It is not, however, a party for ME most days. Most days, I have a certain amount of physical and mental energy and have to ration it out little by little, prioritizing while knowing full well the things low on the list WILL NOT GET DONE.

Here’s to a kinder, gentler to-do list in 2019. An era in which I ask myself if I completed a task, and focus on THAT.

Did I put on pants today? BRAVO, world-slayer!

2. I will be less harsh on (physical) self.

Hooooboy. This year, I turn 50 years old, and Father time is walking across my face. It would appear that he is wearing soccer cleats whilst doing so! Two-thousand-eighteen has been the Year of the Carb. And the funny thing is that last year, NO CARBS was #1 on my internal resolution list. Do anything, Jana….EXCEPT CONSUME CARBS. As Dr. Phil would say, “How is that working for me?”

I’ll tell you how. I gained 20 pounds in a year. The reasons why are legion – lowered mobility, pain when moving, and FOOD. Because I did the exact thing I promised myself I would not do, and I did it TO THE EXTREME.

I hate mirrors; hate them. And that’s kind of a shame because I am now as young as I will ever be, and my husband is not complaining about the way I look. I don’t want to be that woman that fights ageing with panic, honing in on every new wrinkle or fat cell.

Life is simply too short.

3. I will put away the bat in general.

In recovery circles, there is an expression: “It’s time to put away the bat.” The phrase gives a nice visual representing the way we beat ourselves up. Not just about missing goals or gaining weight, but about how we stack up in comparison to other people. We beat ourselves to a bloody pulp with a virtual baseball bat because others clearly are “getting it,” and we perceive that we are not.

Comparison is a thief of joy! I’m going to work on letting it go, and putting away the weapon of emotional torture.

4. I will try to say “thank you.” Just “thank you.”

If you tell me that you like my blouse, it’s likely that I will vomit forth details about it, such as how I got it at Goodwill and it was only $3.99, and it had a frayed hem but I fixed it, and unfortunately I had to go up two sizes.

If you tell me you enjoy my blog, it is my instinct to convince you why you really shouldn’t. I don’t know why, but this kind of minimizing can be cured with two simple words: THANK YOU.

Just “thank you.” And I mean it from the bottom of my heart.

5. I will catch myself when I’m exhibiting co-dependent behavior and lovingly steer myself from it without chiding.

I have no right to be happy if you’re not happy. Crazy, right? But this principal manifests all the time. Especially with my children and husband. When they are sad / mad, I am sad / mad. Because maybe I can “fix” their problems if I get sad, too. Or something like that.

I think it has something to do with being an empath. We absorb the moods of others, particularly of those we love deeply. It literally feels frivolous to be happy if someone I love is not.

This has got to go.

Hey, I’m really sorry your horribly grouchy – that sucks. But I’m TEFLON, man. You can try to rub your grumpiness on me, but I’m not owning it.

That’s the kind of thought process I aspire to. And speaking of thought processes…

I will make time for therapy!

6. I will make time for laughter.

God, I love the internet, unapologetically and 100%. And do you know why? Partially because if I’m not up to wearing pants, I can still communicate with friends on Facebook. Just kidding (not really!)

But my favorite thing about the interwebs are memes. I’m a grown-ass woman and I love me some cats pictured with snarky comments and eat-shit-and-die expressions. I was embarrassed about this for a long time, until I starting posting these squares of silliness to my social media page, and other people started laughing, too.

OMG, if there is anything better than heart-lightening laughter, it’s making OTHER PEOPLE laugh!

Oh, and videos. Ditto prior embarrassment. But then my kids introduced me to ‘Vines’ and life has never been the same.

There are days – especially when I’m struggling and depressed – YouTube videos of Jon Crist have saved my sanity.  If you’ve never watched “Juggling the Jenkins” by YouTuber Tiffany Jenkins, you are missing out big-time.

7. I will make time for music.

MUSIC. IS. LIFE. And I don’t listen to enough of it.

My musical tastes range from Bach and Beethoven to “please don’t judge me.” I love Al Green. And Eminem. And Don Williams. And The Black Crows. I listened to very little music in 2018, on account of I was so seldom “in the mood,” which is a damn shame, because music is a mood changer.

I’m not sure if this is it’s own distinct mental illness, or just a sub-group of my several, but I can almost SEE music. Playing a song sweeps me up and carries me off. Music is color and light and carbonated joy.

Music is therapy. Need a good cry but can’t get it started? Coldplay’s “Parachutes” album. Just do it, and for extra expedition, lean your head against a window whilst it’s gently raining outside or something. You will cry, and it will be cleansing.  Earth, Wind, and Fire cannot be usurped when it comes to getting jiggy with it. It is literally impossible to wallow in the funk if the funkiest tunes are blasting. Worship music can shift the whole atmosphere, and I’m not exaggerating. It can pour a salve into all the hurting places in my soul.

Krunk that stuff UP.

8.  I will try to do 10 kind things for other people each week without telling a soul.

I used to write gratitude cards every single week. Just little note cards sent to friends to remind them specifically why they are so incredibly fabulous. I don’t do that anymore. At some point, it became more of a chore than a kind endeavor, and I hate that.

May 2019 be a year of less selfishness and more kindness. Ten itty-bitty things can make a huge difference.

Holding a door open. Paying for the coffee of the person behind me in the drive through. Phone calls or texts to say I’m thinking of you and I love you.

It’s something I learned in The Rooms (a recovery term for 12 Step groups): You keep it by giving it away. Your hope, experience, strength.

One of the kindest things we can do for someone is express gratitude. We each have something within us that not a single other person on earth can give. I generally do much better if I express gratitude with kind words to others.

I want to work on that.

9. I will invest in my relationships like there’s no tomorrow. Because there may not be.

We once attended a church where the co-pastor was an elderly gentleman. He was a real salt and light kinda guy….always smiling, quick with a joke, and charmingly honest. For instance, he stood at the pulpit one Sunday morning and opened with this zinger: “We’re all terminal.”

He was right.

Notice how time goes much faster with every passing year? I’m going to try to savor it instead of wishing it away. And to savor it, I need relationships. Not acquaintances; real, rich, messy, intimate bondings.

And no….not that kind of intimate! The kind where you bring your raw, honest self in communion to another human being, (and they bring their real, honest self to you,) and you appreciate them for exactly who they are. God created each of our friends with the intention we invest in that person. He has had each friendship in mind since before we were born!

Enjoy it, he is saying. You aren’t meant to do this hard life alone.

10.  I will keep an open(ish) mind.

At some point, Christians have given all our mysticism over to the pagans and such. Please trust me when I say that there is NOTHING more mystical than the Triune God.

It’s the trippiest, man. That a Cosmic Creator inhabited flesh to draw us near. DUDE.

Considering alternate points-of-view is not turning my back on Jesus. Pretty much everyone has something to say worth hearing. Recently, I’ve been reading “There’s Nothing Wrong With You” by Cheri Huber. It is positively incredible.

It is not a “Christian” book. I’m pretty sure she is not a “Christian” writer. But she has some very Jesusy things to say.

“If you had a person in your life treating you the way you treat yourself, you would have gotten rid of them a long time ago…”
And…
“All of life’s conflicts are between letting go or holding on, opening into the present or clinging to the past, expansion or contraction.”
Those are Biblical principals.
In 2019, I will work on my spiritual expansion and contractions. I will adsorb light and love, and embrace who Jesus Himself is, and not what 2,000 years of man-made doctrine and musing has made him.
LOVE.
And, HEY…if you read my blog?
THANK YOU.
Dear readers, I wish you the very best in this new year.
May you laugh, and dance, and give yourself credit for the things you do right.
I hope you be happy, even if no one around you is happy.

Hold on to your joy!  It’s yours!

I pray that in 2019, you will put the bat away, and see yourself for
who and Whose you are – perfectly BEAUTIFUL.
May you have a party in your soul the likes of which my three cats enjoy
on the daily. They have not a worry in the world.
And most of all, I pray that God blesses you in overflowing measure
HAPPY NEW YEAR!

The Thing about Ruts

By: Jana Greene

Greetings, readers. Tonight I wrote about getting out of the negativity rut. So here is the brain purge of the day (and a heart purge, too.)  God bless us, every one.

We live about a mile from the Atlantic ocean, as the crow flies. Even though it’s super close, to get there, you have to drive around a while. There is a monumental body of water called the Intracoastal Waterway that you must cross via bridge. Our town is one of the few places left on the East coast that you can actually drive your 4-wheel drive vehicles right onto the beach. The stretch of coast is simply called “The North End.”

During the summer, we locals lay low and stay away, because the strip of beach you can drive on is a huge cluster-bleep. Trucks and other utility vehicles crammed into every square foot of beach. Thousands of tourists. No thank you very much.

But in the Fall and Spring – and even in Winter – riding in a jeep on the sand is a blast.

Until it isn’t.

The beach – like the ocean – is never the same place twice. As you drive down to the southern-most tip of the island, the dunes are on your left. Lush with sea oats and grass, they are roped off from traffic. To your right, the majesty of the sea. Sometimes it is blue and foamy, and other times a vast ocean of green. It looks brown, too, when the sediment below gets riled by a hurricane  or tropical storm; choppy and angry and dangerous.

I have ridden on the beach many times in our old jeep. Just 10 years ago, it was great fun. I loved going there with My Beloved and unzipping the clear, plastic windows so that we could smell the sea as we jostled about.

It isn’t as much fun anymore. It makes my hurting body hurt badly.

There are times when the drive-able sand is flat as an asphalt highway, and times the sand is mountainous and soft. A different landscape every visit.

One of the risks you undertake by driving on the North End is getting your vehicle stuck in the deep sand. Nearly every time we are there, someone gets standed.

For reasons that I do not understand, men take getting stuck / unstuck VERY seriously. And they take a hit right in the pride if they are unable to work themselves out of the ruts. It causes extreme embarrassment when they are the stuck-ee.

The opposite of getting stuck is being a hero. This designation occurs when you help another driver out of a rut. So far as I can tell, the Man Rules for this scenario looks like this:

You happen upon some poor sap stuck in the sand. His wheels are spinning and spinning, but cannot get any traction. This is not a deterrent. He keeps spinning.

You watch him for a while, perhaps a little smugly.  Not only did you NOT get stuck in the rut yourself, but you might get the opportunity to pull someone else OUT of one.

Pulling alongside the dude whose tires are knee-deep in tightly packed tread, you offer your standard greeting (‘Sup?’) and ask if you may help him, all whilst assuring him that it’s “no problem,” and that you have been stuck on the North End yourself. Several times.

You drive your jeep just ahead of his truck, pull out some chains from the back of your own car (beach-driving men always have chains in their vehicles, for just such an occasion,) hook his front bumper to your rear trailer hitch, and engage all four wheels  slowly and deliberately. You have to be careful not to slip the clutch. Sand flies up behind your tires like crazy, but within minutes, your new buddy is being towed out of the rut. Once he is free, you get out of your car and ask him if he needs any further assistance, and he says “no,” thanking you repeatedly.  Assure him that you were glad to help

Here comes the inevitable analogy: I’ve been in a rut. Not in sand, but in spirit. My chronic health issues and pain have hijacked my whole life. I am almost never well, and this has been going on for nearly a decade, slowly worsening. Most of the time, I feel like I am either getting a migraine, having a migraine, or getting over a migraine. I have very little collagen and thus many of my joints sound like gravel with every step I take. Many of my issues will not resolve (thanks, genetics….) and that’s just the facts, and I don’t like it. This is the new normal. I’m thankfully married to an amazing man who looks after me and takes good care of me, but I imagine it wears on him as well. This – as they say – is not what he “signed up for.” Except that it IS, because he signed up for me, whatever that looks like.

God bless him.

This situation, combined with other circumstances in the past few years, have made me a little negative. Okay, a lot negative. Dealing with pain, and life drama – one thing after another – it takes a toll.

So excuuuuse me if I’ve allowed my ills to affect my attitude. Unless you’ve walked a mile in my shoes (which I know many of you dear readers have similarly done) you just don’t know how taxing chronic illness is.

Some days I feel like I handle it like a superhero, and other days, I’m quite the whiny little bitch about it. I wake up every day expecting the worst, because otherwise I’m disappointed with the day’s challenges. Expecting the other shoe to drop continually will give you grade-A anxiety of the highest order. It’s a deep rut, and I feel like I’m just spinning tires.

That’s the thing about ruts. The same old, same old.

I genuinely want to be a positive person, and sometimes I am. I love my life, and am blessed beyond my wildest dreams, compliments of 17 years recovery from alcoholism. I have great faith in Father God, and a twisted sense of gallows humor to cope whenever my faith falls short. God is my chain-maker and chain-breaker. It’s pretty amazing to know that the Creator of the universe has got my back, no matter how deep of a rut I’m buried in. He is glad to help.

I think it’s time I pull out the chains and start making a concerted effort to be less negative. And I am reminded again of the Serenity Prayer:

…”God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things that I can, and the wisdom to know the difference.”

Hmm. The “wisdom to know the difference” is key here. What amongst the litany of complaints and struggles is under my control?

Genetics I cannot change.

The shitty state of the world, I cannot change.

The co-dependency cycle, in which I agonize over the choices of those I love until I work myself into a frenzy?

I can’t change the actions of others, but I can change my reaction to them.

In the interest of self-care, here are some things I can have the courage to change, God willing:

Engage all four wheels, and pull somebody else out of a rut.

Start physical therapy for my wonky joints, and stay the course rather than give up.

Cut myself a damn break every once in a while and be less self-critical.

Make healthier food and exercise choices, insofar as my joints allow the strain.

And I can wake up in the morning and have the name of Jesus on my lips first thing; instead of expecting the worst.

I may not be able to bounce along in the jeep on the North End anymore, but I sure as heck can pack a beach chair, a picnic, and a book, and park my butt on the beach – one mile away, as the crow flies.

I’m tired of being the “stuck-ee” and ready to pull up my hero pants.

Who’s with me?

When Recovery Means Saying Goodbye

REEL

Goodbyes are hard.

They are hard enough when made seamlessly – a  Bon Voyage before a long trip, planned and executed with love and attention to detail.

Goodbye is difficult, even under the best of circumstances, but there is closure to a well-rounded farewell – an “Until we meet again.”

When I got sober, I said goodbye to alcohol in all it’s forms. It was a very hard break-up, because the connection was so intimate. We snuck around, alcohol and I. We had memories, a history. Goodbye to tart Chardonnay and mellow brew. Goodbye to neon beach drinks with little umbrellas. Goodbye Nyquil.

The parting was long-wrought but swift. Abstinence – unlike mere absence – does not make the heart grow fonder. The further I separated from my lover alcohol, the clearer it became that I was better off without it. Good riddance.

But a funny thing happened during our breakup. Not unlike the separation of any two coupled entities, our friends took sides. But instead of Team Alcohol and Team Jana, my loved ones seemed to belly up to one of two bars: Team Drunk Jana and Team Sober Jana. And I wasn’t expecting that development, honestly. I had naturally assumed that the people who loved me would rally behind Team Sober, but that is not what happened.

My whole world changed, one tenuous moment at a time. Every single nerve in my being was on high alert, but everyone else just kept living as though nothing was happening. As if nothing had changed. It was at this juncture that I had to erect those pesky boundaries. But boundaries with others are only good when they are respected, and as we know – people in the throes of addiction themselves are not great respecter of boundaries.

Sometimes, that means saying goodbye to people we love.

In truth, “everyone else” did not become more dysfunctional as I grew in recovery. The dysfunction just became clearer to me. It is a testament to my level of disease that I had not realized it before. I developed a mental allergy to high drama, and an emotional allergy to the abusive drinking and using of others.

The sad truth is that there are people I’ve known my whole life that will always prefer Team Drunk. They found me more laid-back, easier to manipulate, and less confident when I was active in my addiction. But the problem with the former me is that I was a dumbed-down, numbed-down version of myself before I got sober. I am a new creation in recovery.

Where does healthy acceptance of others meet healthy self-care? I don’t purport to know.

Is “you make me want to drink” enough of a reason to cut ties? I think it can be.

Is “you hurt me” enough of a reason to distance? Team Sober says unequivocally, yes.

My heart still longs for a connection for some of the people to whom I have said ‘goodbye.’ It is  a very hard break-up, because the connection was so intimate. We had a history. I love them dearly, dearly.

What to do with the jagged, messy edges of goodbye in recovery when the amends I’ve tried to make with others don’t match up with the edges of self-care in a nice, neat seam? When the closure has no well-rounded farewell – an “Until we meet again?”

Team Sober says to approach it just like every other recovery issue – this Bon Voyage before the longest, best journey of recovery – planned and executed with love and attention to detail for the sake of my life.

One single day at a time.