Random Musings

Driving from Cheyenne to Fort Collins today and found my mind wandering a bit from here to there about a couple of things. Like what we long for at the core of ourselves; what we cry out for in our very private hearts: I believe that above all things we long to be seen. I think that’s why it is so absolutely fabulous to fall in love – we begin to believe that someone finally sees us, deeply, for who we are – and they like what they see!

The problem, of course, is that we aren’t built to see truly into the heart of another person. We are flawed, and we are individuals who have opinions, and who are so fragile in so many ways.

The first people in our lives who are supposed to “see” us are our parents. I think that in a perfect world, this would happen in such a way that we learn to value ourselves, to “see” ourselves in a real and meaningful way, so that as we grow we are not dependent upon others’ view of us for our sense of value.  Well, none of our parents are perfect in this world so we all have issues we have to work through, but I begin to believe that in a home where chaos is prevelent (like in a home with an alcoholic parent), that special “seeing” gets lost along the way. We don’t learn to see ourselves, to value ourselves, to just be content with who we are. Part of chaos is the random, fluctuating ups and downs, the crisis, and the calm – there is not enough quiet and peace necessary for “seeing” deeply into another person; particularly a child’s heart. So we learn at an early age to doubt ourselves – we find ourselves unable to grasp that spark inside our hearts that makes us worthy of regard from others.

So we punish ourselves, and we wonder why we can’t get what we need from ourselves or from others. We either throw ourselves into becoming perfect enough for someone to love us, or we sell ourselves for the lowest common denominator. Maybe it gets externalized and becomes very visible to others – like alcoholism, drug abuse, or other socially stigmatic problems; maybe it becomes internalized as perfectionism, depression, or workaholism (if that is an actual word) – which ironically enough are usually applauded by society as a whole.

Then miraculously, we grow up and someone falls in love with us. They see our faults and “quirks” and they want us anyway, so we hold on tight and don’t let go. Over a period of time, sometimes short, sometimes long, we realize that they don’t really see us as we need to be seen, and that unexpected joy of falling in love turns to ashes in our hands. Then we have a choice – we either learn to “see” ourselves and find our own value, or we give up in despair. The sad reality is that we often don’t have the capability of “seeing” our spouse the way they need to be seen either. Both parties can end up being hurt, disappointed, and left with the feeling of being found wanting in some fundamental way.

I’m learning to see myself, and to love what I find there inside of me. It is not easy, and it is a long struggle. Jesse, if you are reading this – I see you, my love.

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A Side Trip…

Today I sat looking at unemployment papers, wondered how much longer I would own my home, with a husband who has abandoned his faith, and where in the hell God is through all of this mess. Things are looking darker than they ever have before and my God is absent through it all. I have such small dreams – I want a nice home, a stable job, the ability to save some money, and some extra so my kids can do some fun things like ballet, piano lessons, or karate. I’m not asking for much, or dreaming world-changing dreams. I want to touch people’s lives through nursing, and have a meaningful relationship with my husband. At this moment neither my husband nor I have a job, or any income, my mortgage is two months behind, and I am not entirely sure that I can buy groceries in two weeks, let alone a month from now. I feel alone, and totally betrayed.

You see, I have always believed that if I was a good girl and followed the rules, took responsibility for my mistakes, and loved God, well then, everything would eventually work out and my dreams would come to fruition. I love formulas; you know, if you do A, B, and C, you will end up with D. Chaos is the enemy, uncertainty is soul death, and stability is the ultimate goal. I figured that this plan is God’s path and if I did the best I could, it would get me where I needed to go.

I finished reading “Me, Myself, and Bob” by Phil Vischer (founder of VeggieTales). Ironically enough my husband snagged it at the library the other day as an oddity, and I thought why not? So I checked it out and read it in the last two days. Well, dang! It really isn’t a book about hope, and God moving mountains in our lives – it really comes down to God watching us fall down the freaking stairs and doing NOTHING about it. My life is falling down around my ears and my heart is crying out at the hurt and unfairness of a loving God who is doing not one single thing to stop the fall; and I am angry, hurt, and severely disappointed at the whole situation – at God. Afterall I have kept up my end of the bargain. Haven’t I? What the hell is going on? My biological father jumped ship a long time ago and I am still searching for a father in my life – and don’t we call God our heavenly father? Well, am I not good enough for Him to step into that role? Well, the snarky little voice in my head says “isn’t it better to be a doorman in the kingdom of heaven than a prince in the courts of hell?” Hmmm, I’ve been okay being a menial laborer in God’s camp for a while now, and it just isn’t the heck enough. I want more. If He says I’m his daughter, then I shouldn’t have to sweep the floors, or wash the toilet (spiritually speaking). I want Him, and I want to experience what relationship with Him is all about – but what does that even freaking mean? How can you have a relationship with someone who has no voice, no face, no body? My friends are my friends because they talk to me, they hug me, and they look me in the eye – they are present in my life. How is one supposed to manage that with a God that is only an invisible spirit and who makes Himself scare when everything goes to shit?

So, I’m reading the last chapter of this book and God is peeking around the corner of the book covers. As I sit on my front porch (that may not be my front porch much longer) smoking a cigarette, I come upon a few paragraphs that crack my heart right open and make tears roll down my face (and I am mad as a hornet for feeling so damn vulnerable and pathetic).

“God doesn’t love me because of what I can do for him. He just loves me – even when I’ve done nothing at all.” (pg 247) Really??? Oh, really? I don’t think so!

“First, God loves you. Not because of what you can do, or even because of what you can become if you work really, really hard. He loves you because he made you. He loves you just the way you are. He loves you even when you aren’t doing anything at all. We really shouldn’t attempt to do anything for God until we have learned to find our worth in him alone.”  (pg 250) This really sucks for people like me – cause I am really, really good at working really, really hard. In fact, in my inner-most thoughts, it is about the only good thing I can say about my character. I tend to have low motivation levels, and I am not overly ambitious. I am not particularly disciplined, as evidenced by the state of my home (pile of clean clothes on my bedroom floor, a bathroom that has had only minor cleaning in the past three months, a half painted wall in my son’s room, and a half a dozen other examples you probably don’t want to hear about).Oh, and I am clinically depressed.  But, I am so good at sticking to something, and working my ass off. I can be persistent as all get out. So if God doesn’t love me for what I can become if I work hard, then what is the point – where is my worth? How can I figure out what my worth is? If my worth has nothing to do with me, and everything to do with God, then I honestly don’t know how to fit those puzzle pieces together.

“Second, when it is time to do something for God, don’t worry about the outcome…Your responsibility is simply to do what he asks.” (pg 250) HUH?

“Finally, and I am very serious when I say this, beware of your dreams, for dreams make dangerous friends. We all have them – longings for a better life, a healthy child, a happy marriage, rewarding work. But dreams are, I have come to believe, misplaced longings. False lovers. Why? Because God is enough. Just God. And he isn’t ‘enough’ because he can make our dreams come true – no, you’ve got him confused with Santa, or Merlin, or Oprah. The God who created the universe is enough for us – even without our dreams. Without the better life, the healthy child, the happy marriage, the rewarding work. God was enough for the martyrs facing lions and fire – even when the lions and the fire won. And God is enough for you. But you can’t discover the truth of that statement while you’re clutching at your dreams. You need to let them go. Let yourself fall. Give up. As terrifying as it sounds, you’ll discover that falling feels a lot like floating. ”  (pg 251) If I am real honest here, I do not know how to do this “letting go” which is why I wonder if my life is currently in shambles – maybe it is exactly what God needed to let happen so I can learn how to let go. As terrible as it sounds, maybe I need to fall down the stairs so I can let go of all the effort I have spent trying to control the chaos in this world and in my life. Maybe God is being silent, so I can finally learn to really listen – which I totally suck at by the way.

I am absolutely NOT saying that all the bad things in our lives are to help us “grow” or to “teach us lessons” – I think that is a Christian cop-out, a way of letting God off the hook of our disappointment.  We can’t be good little Christians if, in our hearts, we believe that God has totally let us down – if he has failed all our expectations of what being a child of God means. Cause, when I look in the Bible there were plenty of people who got screwed over in this life, and God never “fixed” it – or people whose dreams were so twisted out of true, or flat-out replaced by what God required of them, and they never got what their hearts desired. But what I do think they got was a real relationship with the big-G God, a knowing of Him, and that’s what I am reaching for. That is what I am hungering after – even if my life never comes back together again; because the death of my dreams and hopes seems an okay price to pay for actually experiencing God. I sure hope that I don’t have to wait long, because things really suck right now.

Here’s a link to the book by Vischer, and another book that I have been slowly making my way through that has a remarkably similar impact and message.
<a href=”Me, Myself, and Bob: A True Story About Dreams, God, and Talking Vegetables” title=”Me, Myself, and Bob: A True Story About Dreams, God, and Talking Vegetables” target=”_blank”>
<a href=”Shattered Dreams: God’s Unexpected Path to Joy (See all Christian Discipleship Books)” title=”Shattered Dreams”>

Attribute #2

Children of alcoholics have difficulty following a project through from beginning to end.

Apparently we (ACoA’s) belive that we are prime procrastonators, but that is not an accurate way to describe us. I do better in a “crisis” situation than one where I need to plan a long-term project. Turns out that due to our chaotic childhoods, we don’t know how to complete long-term projects, because it is a learned behavior and requires being taught the steps. When you live in utter chaos, the focus in on survival – not on planning and learning how to plan. The goal is to get through the day as emotionally intact as possible – which is unfortunately harder than it sounds.

I always used to dread science projects at school; or the long-term papers in college because I do NOT know how to put together a plan that will get me from point A to point B. This isn’t as much of  a problem now that I am an adult and working as a nurse. In fact, it gives me a distinct advantage because I can perform under pressure very naturally. It does, however, cause me great difficulty in managing my family’s finances. I can do paycheck to paycheck just fine, but for stuff like establishing a savings account, or setting up retirement, I am effectively stymied. These difficulties, of course, feel like massive failures, which then starts the emotional battering I give myself any time I fail. It is a terrible cycle that repeats itself, even though I know better by now.

The other issue here is that of the constant broken promises. Dad always had magnificent ideas, and plans and they very nearly never got done – but credit and praise were both expected for the “thought”. The problem is that it isn’t the thought that counts – it is the action. It is very difficult to develop skills for completing projects when you are taught as a child that it is the thought that counts. I am so very, very sensitive to this in my own life. I take great pains to not commit to my children something that I think I might not be able to complete. Of course, this makes for plenty of missed opportunities with my family, which leads again to feelings of failure, which starts that whole internal flogging cycle again. A perfect example is the 2/3 completed paint job of my son’s room! I haven’t even started the girl’s rooms because of the track record from my son’s room. I  hate that I am unable to do more for my kids, because in some ways I am crippled by my inability to plan a project from beginning to end and stick with the plan.

Attribute #1

1. “Adult children of alcoholics guess at what normal is.”

Now that I am a mother and wife, this attribute has become more and more evident. I don’t remember specifically feeling this way as a child. I knew that my family was very different from my friends’ families, but I never felt like I was guessing at what normal is. Now I very much feel like I am just a big faker – I have no freaking clue if my life, feelings, or  behaviors are “normal”. 

  • “They get concerned and confused about things that they believe other people do not get concerned and confused about.”

I look at other people and how they respond to certain situations, and I am baffled by their responses! When you add in a huge dose of co-dependency, things become even more muddled. I worry every day about things that other people don’t even register as things to worry about. My anxiety levels are often out of control. An example of this would be how clean my house is. I have no pictures on my walls, or paint, or matching furniture and cute knick-knacks – and all these little details make me wonder what is wrong with me: Why can’t I put my house together? It’s not “normal” to live this way. How is this going to mess up my kids? What does this say about me as a woman? I think most people would just give themselves a break – after all, if they can’t afford paint, or furniture, or cute knick-knacks, then they shrug and know they will buy them when they can afford them. For me, even something as small as the state of my house becomes a problem of epic proportions, and a judgement on my worthiness as a person.

How about parenting? It is isn’t like I grew up in a home where there was time for crafts, fun projects, outings, etc. and even when those things happened, it always felt a little forced – like we were all pretending really, really hard that we were just like everyone else. Normal at our house was one extreme or another – and you just never knew what the emotional climate of our house would be. I don’t know how day to day life as a parent is supposed to work, or what it looks like.

I;m sorry this post is so disjointed – just not feeling it tonight…might put some more time in tomorrow on this issue.  🙂

Childhood Craziness…

The first chapter of the book talks about childhood, and growing up in a home with an alcoholic parent – I don’t want to go into too much detail here, but there are some significant portions of this chapter that stood out to me.

  • “You looked like a child, you dressed like a child, to some degree you behaved like a child, but you sure as hell didn’t feel like a child.”
    •  When you are a kid, you don’t have a “reality” that exists outside of your parents. Somewhere in my nursing textbooks, there was a section on how children see themselves as an extention of the parents – they just don’t have the ability, or the life experiences that would allow them to seperate themselves from the parents. So when one or both parents are inebriated, the child is placed in a very awkward position – not able to leave the environment, and unable to affect a change in the adults around them. So, still a child, but having to take on the role of an adult to be able to protect him/herself – without the benefits of adulthood.
  • “It was difficult to make friends for a couple of reasons. One, because it was hard to believe that people really liked you. And even if someone’s good feelings toward you were real, it was a little scary to know that if they got to know you a little better and found out, they wouldn’t be your friend.”   AND
  • “As you grew up, it became harder and harder because you reached a point where you simply didn’t know how to make friends. ‘What do I talk to them about? Why would they be interested in me? I’m not a good person. Why would they want me for a friend?'”
    • Both these quotes just rip me up, because that is where I live. I absolutely love people – I want to be one of those women with a plethora of good friends, but honestly, I struggle to have one or two good friends. There are periods in my adult life where I didn’t  have one friend who really knew me. I just cannot believe that people can find anything in me that is worthy of their time, attention, or affection; and if they do, I cannot trust it. I think, they just need time to really get to know me, then they’ll leave. It is a really crappy thing, feeling unworthy of other people’s love, and it started in elementary school for me. I am starting to learn that these thoughts and feelings are untrue – that I am worthy, but it is truly a struggle.
  • “Your alcoholic parent was always making promises and never following through. But he didn’t seem to be lying when he made the promises. What was real and what was unreal got very distorted in your household.”
    • I don’t believe that children have the emotional or mental tools to deal with this distortion of reality – and it hurts on such a deep level. So many mixed messages and broken promises litter my childhood, and it feels like walking on broken glass inside my heart to remember. And I think, dear God, I was the oldest when most of this went down and as unable as I was to deal with it, I wonder how it was for my younger siblings! The wounds from these broken promises caused permanent spiritual/emotional “disability” – I have an intense dislike, nearly a hatred,  for people who lie or play games, and I have a horrible time trusting people. It is like living in a constant state of expectency – just waiting to be let down again, and again. So, what happens is…
  • “You learned how not to want”
    • I finally figured out that if you don’t want anything, then you can’t be lied to or disappointed. About two years ago when my therapist asked me to tell her what I would want to do for a day if I had no restrictions, my response was, “Is that a trick question?” and I meant it. At thirty years old, I did not understand how to truly have wants, or personal desires – and being a mother made it even easier to sublimate those silly little things called wants. Frankly, it has always seemed safer to me to bury myself in what other people need/want, then to have needs/wants for myself.

In a lot of instances I have learned to identify these issues and sort of push my way through them, but it is still difficult to make friends and not feel as if I am always the outsider in any group I am in. I wish I could say I have made leaps and bounds of progress, but that is not the case; I’m pleased to at least identify my problems and work on getting better.

Starting at the beginning…

I thought it might be helpful to start with some basic info on alcoholism,  just so that you can understand how prevalent it is in the United States. According to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, “in the United States, 17.6 million people–about l in every 12 adults–abuse alcohol or are alcohol dependent.” The effects on family members and loved ones are huge and long-lasting. I’m now 33 years old, and still struggle almost daily with repercussions from growing up in an alcoholic home. There are some unique survival mechanisms that are developed by children who grow up in alcoholic homes, and even when the alcoholic parent is no longer in the picture, those survival mechanisms have developed into life-long habits. The skills I developed as a child, while necessary and helpful at that time, now cause frustration and problems in my life as an adult. My goal is to evaluate my behaviors, feelings, and thoughts and weed out those survival mechanisms that are no longer of benefit to me. My next post will start with the first of 13 common traits of adult children of alcoholics, and my own thoughts on, and experiences with, these traits.

My very first blog

Apparently when I get bored I find funky things to do on my computer like create a blog. I have no idea what I am doing with this,  but maybe I will figure it out as I go. I seem to have a million thoughts swirling in my brain, I’m sure some of those might have value to other people too.

My newest project is reading through Adult Children of Alcoholics handbook, and I am finding that so much of it is relevent to my life, but I don’t just want to breeze through it like I read all my other books. I want to take the time to analyze and apply it, and knowing me, if I don’t write it down, it won’t get done – hence the blog. And who knows, it might help someone else too.