Wednesday, January 12, 2022

Liabilities and Assets

One of the concepts I've struggled with over the years is the idea that when I'm pointing one finger at you, three are pointing back at me - in other words, the thing that annoys me about you is very likely a trait of mine. The humility of this concept hit me when I went to a trusted other with complaints about my spouse's judgmental attitude, and she pointed out that I was doing the same thing in judging him. Crap! 

I had such a limited sense of self in my younger years. Someone once described me as "practical," which I totally am, but it felt odd as I'd never thought of myself in those terms. It's all speculation at this point, of course, but I didn't think of myself and my characteristics much in the old days - it was more about making plans or making excuses. I came to hate/fear those few moments before sleep when there was nothing but me and Spirit, knowing that "me" was running "us" into the ground. Personal reflection was to be avoided at all costs, which usually meant having a vodka-7 on the nightstand. If I timed it just right, Johnny Carson and the last slug would coincide (with my later coming-to just long enough to hit the "off" button as the Star-Spangled Banner signaled the end of the tv day).

And yet, with all these years of recovery under my belt, there is still a curious mental blind spot when it comes to my own defenses and defects, defaults and traits. I've named, claimed and tamed many, and recognize that most move up and down a continuum of positive to negative application, depending on the situation. Nearly everything I read these days speaks to self-acceptance as a change agent, but first I have to acknowledge the issue. I can't change anything, whether a trait or a tire, if I'm stuck in denial, or am angry at myself. I can begin the process with the ever-desirable pause, slowing down enough to ask myself a few questions. Why is x,y,z upsetting to me? How important is it, really? How often do I do the same thing? (And beware the automatic, "Never!" because that's probably not true). 

A reader in Mexico shared a recent exercise of noting things they feel good about - accomplishments and positive experiences. Step 10 (12x12) speaks to assets and liabilities, but it so often feels like the program's focus is on what I did "wrong." I get it - when I got sober there was more that needed correction than celebrating, however, with now decades of recovery, I've done a lot right, even if some days that is merely suiting up and showing up. 

Coloring my perception of the Steps is the indoctrination of not tooting my own horn, the warning not to brag. I'd say there is a difference between bragging (which is often a cover-up for insecurity) and being confident. I don't have to shout my successes from the rooftops, but I don't need to second guess every decision, or walk around feeling like I coulda/woulda/shoulda done better. It really is ok to simply be. Simply be, and pay attention that when I'm upset with you, I might be better served by looking in the mirror. As speaker Lila R. says, "If I'm not the problem, there is no solution." Nearly everything that upsets me these days in relationships, whether at home, with friends, or at the grocery store, can be traced back to my perspective. 

I started my new temporary job on Monday, and my spouse had his trimester change in schedule, so I've been feeling a bit discombobulated as we settle in. The changes are fine, and, I don't need to pretend I can jump from one thing to another without a bit of mental and emotional adjustment. That's one place my "should's" show up - in thinking I'm not supposed to miss a beat. Putting our dear cat down last week, big change in my daily schedule, different work hours for my husband - all have an impact, however big or small. Funny how I still sometimes need to give myself permission to be human.

If I were to name three things I feel good about, I'd start with living in recovery, my education and career, and my running and walking accomplishments. I don't know that those are my top three of all time, but a good place to start. What are three (or five, or ten) things from your life that you feel positive about? Can you see where the not-so-great aspects of your past characteristics have been outweighed by the positives you've nurtured and grown as a person in long-term recovery? If it's true what my Alanon reader says, that "being human is not a character defect," how do you lighten up when you feel yourself getting out the sledgehammer?

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