What is it?

Looking through my journals and email, I found out that I was wishing for a lot of good things to happen. I claimed to be “hoping,” but I did not/could not be confident the desired outcome would happen. That is not what hope is about. Hope is more than wishing. [Want to know more? Click here.]

Thursday, March 31, 2011

Hey! Guess what?! I’m a Writer!

Anyone can claim to be a writer and, in my book, anyone who writes on a regular basis is a writer. It is nice if someone recognizes the writer in us, but our status as writers is not dependent on that recognition. Likewise, we are writers whether or not we have been published. Of course getting published is nice, very nice. Yet being a writer comes from a place deep inside that must be acknowledged, a part of us that says we must write.

Last week, I met a young woman from my Celebrate Recovery (CR) small group at a coffee shop to help her with a project for a college class. (CR is a twelve-step program for dealing with life’s hurts, habits, and hang-ups with Jesus Christ as our Higher Power). We worked for about 2 ½ hours reviewing some articles from scholarly journals and putting the ideas into her words.

When we were almost done, I asked why she thought to call me. Her answer, I admit, surprised me. It shouldn't have. She said, "Because you are a writer." Duh! I don’t know what I expected. To be regarded as a writer by someone is a really nice compliment. It is the recognition we long for, but so rarely comes (especially to those of us who have newly declared ourselves to be writers). But as I think about it, recently others have asked for help with their writing/teaching.

Why now? Or why am I noticing now? I think it is because in living in the present, I'm focusing on the possibilities, not the problems, focusing on thriving and not just surviving. The resulting confidence is attractive to others. Not being too needy leaves us better able to meet another’s needs. We may still struggle with our issues, our old ways of thinking and coping, but those things, day in and day out, do not absorb us.

That's a huge change in thinking. Maybe the biggest change since allowing Jesus Christ to take care of the messiness of life. To summarize the change I remember what one therapist said to me, “Stop thinking like a victim and be a victor!” Sounds like “thrive versus just survive” to me.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

What Will Others See?

I’ve been relating to David lately, as you might have guessed based on recent posts. In reading the Psalms each day, especially the ones written by David, I’m getting new insights into my own thoughts and feelings. Quite honestly, I am clueless about what I’m thinking and feeling much of the time. Dave – I feel like we have been baring our hearts, as good friends, as in a relationship where nicknames are used – Dave supplies the words I need to identify my thoughts and feelings.

In Psalm 69, Dave again expresses my feelings well. Dave says he’s in over his head. He says a whirlpool is sucking him down. He says he is swamped and edging toward the Black Hole. Overwhelmed! Sucked in! Sluggish and unable to move! Facing uncertainty! I’ve been there! And, at any given moment I might still be struggling with one or more of those issues.

Yet, I pray as Dave did: “Don’t let those who look to you in hope be discouraged by what happens to me . . . Don’t let those out looking for you come to a dead end by following me – Please, dear God of Israel!” I don’t want my struggles to be the first thing people see when they encounter me. Nor do I want to be defined by my illnesses. Will people see the Mary that is surviving, hanging on for dear life, or will they see Mary who is thriving, at peace, joyful and growing in God?

Just like Dave, I want my struggles, doubts and experiences lead others to God and not lead them astray. In fact, my desire is that my speaking, my book(s) and my blog articles will be used by God to point people toward a personal relationship with God through the power of the Holy Spirit and their belief in Jesus. And I pray daily that those who need to hear my message will hear it loud and clear, and be encouraged by God's wonderful acts of mercy, forgiveness, acceptance, protection, guidance and love He has done on my behalf.

Where are you today? What are your struggles? Don’t deny your struggles. We can embrace the help available from God. In spite of our problems, God can use them to help others. I pray for you, “Please God, help others see Your grace and help in the midst of my struggles and be encouraged and strengthened, even as God is working on their behalf to help them thrive in You.”

Thursday, March 17, 2011

I Will Not Thrive Every Day

I needed, and got, a little reminder today: I will not be perfect at thriving everyday. So I’m struggling a little right now. It’s not the end of the world. It doesn’t mean I’m standing at the edge of the black hole again. In fact, the struggling is distinctly different from other, past, times. I’m not freaking out in anticipation of the certain impending doom. Proof?

Other people say I’m still smiling a lot more than I have done in the past. [Thank you, Alice]. Today at my regular Wednesday 11:30 a.m. AA meeting I shared how I’m struggling right now. I basically said that I’m doing the things I don’t want to do, and I’m not doing the things I want to do. Okay, I borrowed from the Letter to the Romans written by Paul.

Paul wrote: “For that which I am doing, I do not understand; for I am not practicing what I would like to do, but I am doing the very thing I hate.”

Another version says, For I do not understand my own actions [I am baffled, bewildered].”

I am baffled and bewildered. I know what I need to do to achieve my goals for health and fitness. I plan to do them, little step by little step. I don’t make lofty plans that I’m sure I will never do. I agreed today to work on two things:

1. Journal my food intake – just journal it, not beat myself up for eating the “wrong” things. I had several successful months of recording and keeping accountable by “reporting” the journal’s content to my sister. Eventually I was much more conscious of what, when and how much I was eating, and I was making better choices. I even lost a little weight.

2. Walk more. I decided last week to use a pedometer (to measure number of steps) and try to walk a little more each day. I have a long-term goal of being able to participate in a 5K charity walk for the Juvenile Diabetes Foundation. That usually takes place near the end of July. It is a realistic goal, but it will stretch me.

Today, although I’m in a kind of survival mode, I’m still able to smile. I’m also able to accept the observations of others that I am not at the edge. I struggle to see how this funk is different from other times. I am not used to feeling sad or frustrated without going to the extremes. But others point it out to me, and I recognize that this survival mode is not desperate, overwhelming, or too heavy to bear. As I practice new skills to move me back to a state of thriving, I’m building mental and emotional muscles. What’s the old saying? “What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger.” I may not be doing what I want to do – but I am doing less of the things I don’t want to do, the things I hate.

So I was reminded today that not thriving does not automatically mean striving. There are gray areas, and shades of a middle ground, a place of things being okay just as they are.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

David and Bipolar Disorder

I “get” David. I think he would “get” me. I’m talking about the David, the one who killed the giant, the one who became King of Israel, the one who committed adultery with Bathsheba, the one God said was a man after His own heart, and the one that wrote many of the Psalms.

I see what David was like from his very personal writings, the songs and poems found in Psalms. His writings tell of his total despair and hopelessness, quickly followed by joy and hope in God. David goes from:

“Listen and help, O God. I’m reduced to a whine and a whimper, obsessed with feelings of doomsday” [Psalm 64:1; The MESSAGE]


“Be glad, good people! Fly to God! Good-hearted people, make praise your habit!” [Psalm 64:10; The MESSAGE]

in a matter of seconds, definitely within a few minutes.

Despair – Euphoria – Depression – Joy – Hopelessness – Hope – Doubt – Confidence.

This pattern is so familiar to me. If there were therapists and psychiatrists in David’s era, would David have been “diagnosed” with Bipolar? I can look at this in a few ways.

For instance, I could say that the extreme moods are “normal” and that David was able to be safe (from himself, especially when depressed) by trusting God. So, if I trust God like David did, without doubt -- oh, wait David did doubt at times – I should be okay. I don’t need therapists, psychiatrists, or medicines; I just need faith.

Or I could look at it and ask, “Would David have had an easier time, with fewer mood swings, less despair and doubt, if he had the benefit of a therapist and/or psychiatrist?” It is not that I don’t believe God can heal me, completely, from my alcoholism, diabetes, and Bipolar Disorder. He can! Again, He can! Yet, sometimes He doesn’t. I don’t presume to know the mind of God. That is preposterous, utterly absurd.

I don’t know why He hasn’t healed me, but I do know He has protected me, provided help, and used me in the midst of my struggles. He uses our distress and troubles to give us the empathy needed to help others with similar distress and troubles. [2 Corinthians 1:3ff]

David’s accounts of his “issues,” of his “symptoms” bring me encouragement. He gets me. And, I can follow his example and help others by getting them.

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Writer's Block

Writer’s block. Block or not, I must write. That’s what the writers at the Writers’ Conference said. I’ve read books on writing. They all say ignore the supposed block and write. (One of my favorite reads about writing is The Right to Write, by Julia Cameron.)

I have found that when I feel like I can’t think of anything to write, I am avoiding something. This week I’ve been avoiding some things. One psychologist I talked with told me that I am addicted to anything, and everything, that will allow me NOT to feel or deal with my emotions. There are the obvious addictions: alcohol, drugs, cigarettes, shopping, gambling, and food. There are the less obvious. Some even seem to be good for us. But, when moderation is not enough, even those good things can become a way to distract from the real issue(s) – usually, for me, the emotions. Reading, listening to music, cruising the internet, Facebook, sleeping, “daydreaming,” helping others, taking on too many responsibilities, and even folding the laundry can be ways to avoid feeling and thinking about what is really going on.

This week I’ve been sleeping a lot. I do feel tired. Avoiding is as hard – tiring and time consuming – as dealing with the emotions and thoughts directly. The only possible benefit of avoiding is that, for a time, a short time, there is no sense of pain. Just numbness and emptiness exist in the cave I go to when I’m choosing to avoid. Unfortunately, I can’t stay hidden in the cave. Doing that, while I sometimes think it would be great, is not living. So, just as with a drunk, when the effect wears off, the world and its problems are still waiting. Often worse or heavier or more urgent than before escaping.

So why the “writer’s block?” Writing is a therapeutic tool for me. When I force myself to organize my thoughts into words, then sentences, then paragraphs, a complete idea forms and it begins to make sense. The writing holds the leaking, scattering, swirling thoughts together. This week I’ve been letting the thoughts leak out. I’ve been letting “writer’s block” be my excuse.

Today I will push past the addictions in my life holding me away from fully feeling and realistic thinking about the stuff that frightens me and confuses me. Today, I write. Today, I wrote this. It’s a start.