Sunday, October 28, 2007

Bonding with Dad

My father is a drug addict. He is an alcoholic, too. He is not in active addiction, so he's bearable to be around. Actually, my dad is pretty cool when he's not using. He relapsed a few years ago, after several years of sobriety. Since then, we haven't been so close. I said some awful things to him after his last relapse; I made him feel bad intentionally. I was mean to him and wanted to tear his limbs from his body, wanted to dig his eyeballs out of his head, wanted to beat him with his own hands. I settled for saying awful, hurtful, vicious things to him, then avoided him for a couple of years.

Every other time in the past that Dad had sworn to get clean, he was so vocal about it. He would make promises to me, and talk about how much better he felt without dope, on and on and on. This time, he didn't make one promise; he never talks about how much better he feels. But he's straight, very straight, and for a long time. Well, long for him.

Do I think he's straight for good? Naw. I don't. Am I waiting for that call from my mom? Only every time I see her phone number on caller ID. But I am trying to enjoy him clean while I have him clean. Reading The Junky's Wife has brought up a lot of the pain I grew up with watching my dad use, but it has also helped me recognize how I was giving my dad's behaviour an unhealthy hold on me. A hold that I don't have to allow.

Dad and I spent most of the day together yesterday. We haven't done that in nearly three years. We ate lunch at Ruby Tuesday's, where I ate two mini cheeseburgers. Which are fun, because they're so small. I saw them on the menu and told the waitress, "those are cute, bring me a lot of those!". I took him shopping for movies, where he bought movies for my mom on a gift card I had given him. He went with me to the craft store, and held my purse while I had to put my fingers on every ball of yarn I could find. We spent a couple hours at the library, where he scoured through shelves of books looking for a vague description of what I wanted until he found it. We talked about things I never knew he was interested in. He expressed opinions that I never knew he had formed. He made jokes about being old and talked about how lucky he is to have the chance to grow old with my mom.

I've seen a whole different side to my dad that I never knew existed. For the first time, I feel as though I don't need to be the grown up in our relationship.

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This post is part of a series of posts about my father.

Friday, October 26, 2007

Autumn

The leaves on the trees at my office complex are red. Today was very bright and the sun was warm on my skin. The wind was blowing, and the leaves were swirling around, and birds were doing their birdy things, and life was good. I was happy to be alive today.

I used to hate this time of year. I dislike cold and blowy wind. Autumn was Colin's favourite time of year, and since his death I've started to enjoy it for him.

Thursday, October 25, 2007

Exploring emotionality versus intellectuality

I'd like to respond to Aerolin's recent comment here ... I have a lot to say and it's mostly stream-of-thought, so bear with me.
What is so wrong with emotions and being emotional? I seem to recall you assisting me with this concept a year or so ago now... I've come to recognize my emotions as a major source of my strength. I don't see emotions above intellect nor intellect above emotions anymore, but that's thanks to some serious deprogramming. We're taught that emotions hold little value and that intellect is superior. What is it for you that makes you shut off your emotions in this way and only respond intellectually?

My process of working through situations by responding intellectually versus emotionally isn't an intention to shut off my emotions; rather, it's my attempt to get my emotions under control so that they don't run away from me. It is very easy to be excessively emotional, and to react on purely emotional levels without thought or regard to the stimulus. I believe this contributes to the concept that woman are dismissed as "emotional" and disregarded when they feel or react passionately.

When I was much younger I had a habit, as many young people do, of allowing my emotions to rule me. I didn't examine them, or get to know them; I was not in touch with them. I simply let them take me over and rage inside me. I did not know how to express myself in a constructive manner, and often felt completely overwhelmed by the feelings I had. The overly-emotional, knee-jerk responses I had to events around me was a lot like a thunderstorm, damaging those in its path indiscriminately.

I have made the same recognitions regarding the strength that my emotions give me, but for me the process began with examining them and harnessing their power before letting them go. For me, this was fundamental in overcoming personal trauma and the pain it continued to bring me.

An example of this in practice is some of the interactions between Jeff and me. We have the ability to hurt one another greatly because of our bonds of intimacy and friendship. He can hurt my feelings with disapproving look, can make me feel infinitely stupid with a tone of voice, and can anger me beyond words with the smallest actions. When he asks me what I am doing in a tone of voice that I think is full of scorn I don't hear what are you doing? I hear You stupid bitch. Only a moron would do what you're doing. Why don't you jump off a bridge? The immediate emotional response I have to this perceived sentiment of his is to become caustic and waspish, to guard my hurt feelings and maybe hurt his feelings a little bit in return. This is not healthy expression of emotion, but it comes very naturally to me.

If, however, I stop to consider the situation from a standpoint of logic and intellect, rather than allowing my emotions to completely cloud my judgment, I can realize that of course Jeff doesn't think I'm a moron. By reacting initially with intellect and logic, I give myself the opportunity to drain the negative emotional response off and not give in to it. By keeping my emotions in check, I have the chance to ask him what he means. If I really want to address how his comments make me feel I can simply tell him that how he spoke to me hurt my feelings and give him the chance to explain his intentions. Oftentimes, he's in a crabby mood and I'm picking up on it; by reacting more rationally to him, I can avoid exacerbating a situation that doesn't really need to be a huge problem (cause we like to save our fights up and have really big ones).

Thus keeping my emotions in check in this manner helps us communicate more maturely and far more openly. Jeff is very receptive to calm, rational expressions of emotion or anger, and is willing to accept any responsibility he has in creating an unpleasant situation. When I explode at him, he's not so willing to see my side or see how he contributed to the situation. Not only does this greatly reduce the negativity in our home and our frequency of fights, it allows us to discuss feelings that can often be very, very difficult to discuss. I feel this deepens our bond, and strengthens the foundation on which we have built our relationship.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Metaphors in language

I really hate most metaphoric speaking. I was chatting with a friend about this the other day. I'm okay with metaphors to demonstrate a particular point, but I feel they are widely overused (hence, the cliche). The person to whom I was speaking tends to use metaphors liberally in his communications, and I'm forever making him clarify his meaning. Really, I was starting to feel a little stupid about the whole thing. In trying to figure out why I so dislike metaphors, I realized that I just don't get most of them. I think too literally about most things. I stumbled a page that helped me understand why I don't understand metaphoric speaking and why that doesn't make me a complete moron.

Metaphors are so powerful because of one simple fact of human psychology—we react more readily to the emotional than the rational. Thanks to the differences between the two hemispheres of our brains, what catches our attention and sticks with us is what we see and feel via our right brain. After that, the rational left hemisphere can be engaged by the relational nature of the metaphorical information itself.

There's a lot more to it, but I found this bit especially interesting. Something I've worked very hard on is not reacting on an emotional level to all stimuli; instead I work to remove the majority of emotion from my responses, or at least curb the knee-jerk emotional reactions that can be thoughtless and hurtful. The goal is that my initial responses to events or circumstances are grounded in intellect and logic. I've been putting conscious effort towards this practice since my teens, and it has become almost instinctive for me.

I have a book called Metaphors We Live By that I have put off reading for over a year. I think I will get started on it.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Identifying emotions

I have been intermittently reading a book on Buddhism written by an American Buddhist woman. I find it to be very heavy reading, so I end up putting it down periodically and going for something lighter. I am enjoying the process of thinking differently about several key concepts about life and religion. Something the author talks about is insight meditation. This is the process by which the practitioner questions the emotions they experience. Similar to the dream interpretation techniques I've learned recently, I would identify that I feel angry, then ask myself "what is anger?" and follow the answers to a root motivator.

Because of the way my mom raised me, and all the therapy I've had in my life, I feel like I'm very well in touch with my emotions; I don't question my feelings. If I'm angry or sad or depressed, I generally operate under the assumption that I have a right to be so and that those emotions make sense based on what is happening to and around me. As such, this exercise felt a little silly to me when I first read about it. After indulging it a few times, however, it started to change the way I think about my emotions, to question the right-ness or validity of what I'm feeling. I think by just accepting the feelings I have without delving deeper into them, I'm missing out on opportunities to get to know myself better, and possibly change unenlightened behaviour.

With this practice I have been able to identify some of the wasteful emotions I have. Anger at traffic, for example, seems to take a lot of my energy. When I really stop and think about it this is the single stupidest emotion I have. Being so angry at traffic tends to put me in a bad mood. I'm working on identifying a few key things about the emotions I have: what purpose they serve me, whether or not they are 'productive', how they affect others around me.

Monday, October 22, 2007

A time of wanting

Everything you want wants you, too.

Aerolin said this to me in a recent comment. I'm reading a book right now, the name of which escapes me. A co-worker loaned it to me and it's sitting on my bookshelf at work. The book suggests everything has energy, a signature 'vibration' that is particular to that thing. There is a theory that thoughts can tap into these vibrations, and attract the things we think about hard enough; when we want a particular thing we're thinking of that thing, subconsciously looking for ways we can get that thing, or attract that thing, so that we will eventually find a way to bring it to ourselves.

Can it be true that everything I want in life wants me just as badly? Am I lock to my desires' key, or vice versa? I'm fascinated by this idea, but I'm not sure what to do with it yet.

I do know that I don't know what I want. Oh, superficial things, like not having to commute sixty miles every day; the energy to resume my work-out program; more time in the day to get my work accomplished; unlimited funds for my education. Do these things crave me? Is there some exercise just waiting for me to do it? Are there experiences I'm not having that are languishing in my inattentiveness? Unspent money waiting for the opportunity to jump into my pocket? I'm right here, baby. Get in.

But the things that I really need to get myself feeling like a person again? I have no idea.

Sunday, October 21, 2007

Lazy, lazy Sunday

I've been spending some time over at The Junky's Wife. Here is a woman I'd love to get to know. I stumbled it twice before I actually started reading it. I am incredibly moved by her blog. Seeing the fortitude with which she deals with her husband's addiction is amazing and inspiring. Having lived with and around substance abuse for most of my life, I can relate to so much of she has to say. It's not often that complete strangers will move me to tears with their words, but the Junky's Wife sure does.

Aside from spending my day on other people's blogs -I've also been reading through the Junky's Wife best friend's blog, Long Vowels, who also has interesting things to say- I've been pretty lazy today. I helped Jeff with some laundry and spent most of the day playing World of Warcraft finishing up some in-game rep-grinds.

I've been riding the mood-swing roller coaster lately. I'm pre-menstrual, which seems to be getting worse as I get older, and I think I'm headed into a depression cycle. Jeff is an absolute saint to put up with me the way he does; I am quite sure my life would be unbearable without him. Reading the Junky's Wife reminded me how lucky I am to have Jeff as a husband. I don't mean that to sound awful or condescending towards her at all, but reading about other people's challenges with their husbands helps me put Jeff's "faults" into perspective. I'll endeavor not to become so impatient with him when he does things I find irritating. I could be a lot worse off.

I am not looking forward to the holidays, in case you're wondering. I am quite sick of that question, however. I stopped for coffee Friday afternoon and the vapid girl-bot at Starbucks asked me if I was ready for the holidays; I cocked my head to the side and pulled a panicked looked and said "No, why? Is there going to be a test?" She wasn't amused, but I got a giggle.

My parents will be in Sacramento visiting my mom' side of the family this Thanksgiving; Jeff and I will be going to his parent's house. There are few better ways I can think of than spending Thanksgiving at the in-law's. I don't know a more relaxed group of people. I plan to take a crochet project (I'm crocheting a skirt out of dark grey yarn) and curl up on the couch after dinner until Jeff drags me home.

Friday, October 19, 2007

Out of sorts

I haven't been doing much for me lately. My exercise routine has been put on hold - I haven't been running, working out, or meditating, haven't been spending as much time on WF as I want to, haven't been reading or studying ...

I've been working so many hours, and I can't seem to have my hobby and exercise routine and put a lot of energy in at work at the same time. I'm so frustrated by my lack of ability to find balance with my selves.

The lack of exercise and physical activity really has me out of sorts. I haven't really been eating regularly nor sleeping well, and I've just but been feeling "blah" lately. I'm in such a rut.

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