Meditation on September – Episode 260

What does September mean to you? How do you handle times of transition?

I've been thinking about September. I guess it started with my wife commenting, as we walked to the car, “This is the first sweater day.” She had that tone of voice, like it was the worst thing. But then she said, “I can be grateful that there’s a whole season yet to enjoy before winter.” And, that’s the thing about September. It’s the end of summer, at least here in Michigan. Sure, we’ll have some more hot days, but we know it’s trending colder until midwinter. For children (and others), it’s the end of vacation, but also the beginning of a new school year.

September is a time of transitions. It’s a time of saying goodbye and a time of saying hello. The weather is getting colder, and the trees will start turning beautiful colors. The sultry heat of summer will give way to brisk days with bright blue skies.

For many of us, it’s a time to regroup. A time to put away our summer clothes, and our summer playthings, and our summer lethargy. It’s a time to get the sweaters out of the closet, a time to get out the snow blower and make sure it works.

At my church, it’s a time we celebrate coming back together for another year. I will greet a new roomful of 7th grade youth as we begin our new journey of discovery and learning together. It is the beginning of the new year in the Jewish calendar (September 10-11 this year, 2018 on the common calendar, which is the start of year 5779 on the Hebrew calendar).

This year, September also marks a transition in the health and lives of my parents, and in the way I perceive their health and life. The first weekend of September, I drove to where my parents live, so that I could be with them for a few days, as my mother is in rehab with a broken leg that she suffered in a fall a couple weeks earlier. I have heard that stress can worsen dementia (which they both have to some degree). This certainly seemed to be true, or else I just hadn’t perceived the extent of their dementia in our visit earlier in the summer.

They both seemed confused about what had happened and what was happening. My mother did not understand why she couldn’t just go home. We had to explain that she was in the rehab facility to get better, and that she needed to stay there until she had healed enough to go home. She seemed to understand for a little while and then it was gone. My parents have been married for 66 years and have rarely been apart for more than a few days. Being separated is hard for them. Seeing their confusion and unhappiness is hard for us. Not being able to fix it is hard. Sometimes not knowing even what to say or do is hard.

Which is not to say that it’s all bad. She is recovering, regaining strength, improving in her ability to walk a few steps (with the help of a therapist and a walker!) We had some pleasant time visiting, looking at old photographs and identifying the people in them. I brought an old photo album to her room one day. It had tiny black and white photos (about 2 ½ inches the long way). She looked at the first one, which showed some sort of public event, and said “That’s Mrs. Roosevelt at the White House egg hunt!” She was there and may have taken the photo herself. We don’t know exactly what year it was taken, but it was likely in the late 1930s or early 1940s. There were photos of her and her brother with their parents, including a photo of her as a teen, posing in her bathing suit on the beach. She was a beauty.

It is a time of transition for them, and for us. This was a sharp awakening to the realities of their life in their late 80s. Visiting their home, and working to make it ready for her to come home, possibly in a wheelchair, also opened our eyes to how much they had been struggling to just live normally. We cleaned and cleaned, we washed loads and loads of clothes, we moved furniture and other obstacles to make a clear path between bedroom, bathroom, and living/dining room. It is clear they needed help, but they didn’t ask for it. We, their children, must now step up and start parenting our parents, so that they can enjoy the remainder of their life as best as possible. September is a month of transition for me today.

With change, with transition, comes a measure of grief for the days gone by. As I enter, perhaps, the autumn of my life, as my parents are clearly in the winter of theirs, I am grieving the things that are no longer there, no longer true. My parents are no longer the rocks that were always there. They are no longer people to whom I can turn for support. Instead, I must now be a rock supporting them. The Al-Anon book Opening our Hearts, Transforming our Losses talks about grief and about living and dealing with grief, as in the reading I opened the episode with.

It also talks about how we can use the tools and principles of the program to help us move through grief into new life. What are these tools? How have I used them?

I read from Opening our Hearts, Transforming our Losses, pages 102-104. I mentioned the reading from Courage to Change for September 4.

Our topic for next week is enabling. Please call us at 734-707-8795 or email feedback@therecoveryshow.com with your questions or experience, strength and hope. Or just leave a comment right here.
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Slogans part 2 – Episode 235

How do you use slogans? Do you “let it begin with me”? When do you ask yourself “Is it worth my serenity?” How do you “Live and let live”?

  • 3 slogans for today.
    • Let it begin with me.
    • Is it worth my serenity?
    • First things first.
  • For each slogan: How do I understand the slogan?
  • What did I think when I first heard each slogan?
  • Has my understanding changed?
  • How have I applied the slogan in the past? Now?
  • The “Al-Anon declaration” includes the words “Let it begin with me” twice. Why?
    • LET IT BEGIN WITH ME—When anyone, anywhere reaches out for help, let the hand of Al‑Anon and Alateen always be there and LET IT BEGIN WITH ME
  • Do I use “Let it begin with me” to remind me that my recovery comes first?
    • Sort of like the “oxygen mask” metaphor?
    • “Isms” and “if you spot it, you got it”
  • What happens when I ask “Is it worth my serenity?” How does it change the way I react to situations?
  • Do I use “first things first”
    • To reduce frustration, fear, or uncertainty?
    • To help me move forward one step towards a goal I don’t know how to reach?
    • To help me choose from several “next steps”?

Our topic for next week is new topic. Please call us at 734-707-8795 or email feedback@therecoveryshow.com with your questions or experience, strength and hope. Or just leave a comment right here.

Readings

We opened with a reading from Chapter 9 of How Al-Anon Works, Slogans.

Later, we read from Courage to Change, April 18 and December 2.

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3 P’s: Perfection, Procrastination, Paralysis – Episode 219

Do you find yourself seeking perfection? Do you procrastinate because you can't achieve it? Or, maybe, you are paralyzed because of it.

We explore the 3 P's, guided by the questions below and with shares from listeners.

  • How do Perfection, Procrastination, and Paralysis connect to each other?
  • How have I experienced perfection(ism) in my life?
  • How (and why) do I procrastinate?
    • What is the payoff from procrastinating?
  • When do I experience paralysis?
    • What behaviors do I exhibit then?
  • How can I use the “6 P’s”(from our book Paths to Recovery) of Step six?  Thanks to Cleaning Out the Old Toolbox blog for these reflections:
    • Perspective: think of defects of character as “survival skills that no longer serve me”. Since my Higher Power wants more for me than mere survival, I can let them go and trust that I will develop healthy behaviors and thinking.
    • Pain: Whenever the pain of staying the same hurts more than the pain of change, that’s the time when I will be ready.
    • Prayer: My part is to pray for openness & willingness; God’s part is to do the removing.
    • Patience: God gets to choose when and how fast He will remove my defects of character.
    • Process: Quite possibly, this is a grief process of denial, anger, bargaining and depression.
    • Payoff: The bottom line–what am I getting out of holding on to some of these defects of character? What is still good about it?
  • How can I let go of 3 P’s?
    • Slogans
      • Progress, not perfection
      • First things first
      • How Important is it?
      • Do the next right thing.
      • Keep it simple.
      • Easy does it.
      • Let go and let God.
    • Steps
      • Step 4 — identify my character traits
      • Step 5 — be honest about them!
      • Step 6 — become ready to let go of what is not helping me
      • Step 7 — Ask for the help (and practise new behavior)
    • Acceptance that nothing is/will be perfect. Ever.
    • Gratitude

Our upcoming topic is courage. The word courage appears in the serenity prayer, from which the title of one of our daily meditation books was taken: Courage to Change. How have you experienced courage in your recovery? Which steps required courage of you? How has recovery given you courage to change the things you can? Please call us at 734-707-8795 or email feedback@therecoveryshow.com with your questions or experience, strength and hope. Or just leave a comment right here.

Episodes mentioned in this show are: Episode 203, Adult Children of Alcoholics; Episode 200, Daddy's Medicine; and Episode 22, Parents' Roundtable.
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