Tuesday, June 13, 2017

Does it Really Matter

The school where I teach did several project-based learning units this year.  We took a central theme and applied it to all the various subjects students were taking.  One of the themes was Environmental Responsibility.  We looked at several big areas of environmental problems as well as how these problems could be turned around.

I was very surprised by my students' reactions.  Unlike me these kids grew up with 'reduce, reuse, recycle' and they were pretty familiar with the Garbage Patch and the ocean dead zones.  It was not a new topic so I understood that they were not always spell-bound.  What surprised me was their lack of personal action and their fatalism.  They willingly wrote essays about how industrial farming methods are bad for animals and increase disease in our food supply while finishing up their fast-food hamburger from lunch.  They drew recycling posters and threw their scraps in the trash. It seemed like there was no connection between what they knew and their personal action choices.   One day we were discussing an extreme ecological experiment called No Impact where Colin Beaven worked for one year to reduce his negative environmental impact to zero,  He figured out how to not create trash, he walked or biked everywhere, he and his family ate local food and even turned off the electricity for part of the year.  Eventually, one of my student asked the question, "But did any of that really matter?"  This and other comments made me realize that many of them felt that their own personal actions did nothing to solve the Earth's problems.  They had decided that our world is doomed and there was nothing they could do about it. 

I found this expounded on in a book called Hope's Edge. "...we don't experience ourselves as creating this world; we don't see ourselves as choosers at all.  Our planet-in-decline is just happening... What we have is all there is."

My first reaction was to feel sad that our youth could have such a doom and gloom outlook.  Then I began to wonder if they were right.  Did the bags of paper I dragged out of school to take to the local drop off really matter?  Was my paying extra to get local vegetables from the farmer's market really helping carbon emissions and putting a dent in the industrial food system?  Did my local action even matter?

Here is my answer - I chose to buy vegetables and even meat from my local farmers and ranchers because I don't want food riddled with antibiotics, pesticides, and herbicides.  So, first of all it makes a difference to me and hopefully to my family's health.  My money helps support small farmers who are creating a food system that I believe in.  Along with other 'shoppers' we allow these farmers to keep doing what they believe in and not quit or convert to industrial methods.  I think it makes a difference to them.  I like knowing that the meat I eat comes from animals that had a good life.  They got to play and frolic and eat the things they were meant to eat.  Yes, they ended up on my plate, but they did not live a life of torture and disease first.  I think it makes  a difference to those animals.  So, my food choices may not change the world (although the food movement is growing and seeing an influence), but it is influencing my corner of the world, and I think it does matter.

Although this post has centered around environmental issues, it really touches on my whole worldview.  I believe in local action, I believe in people influencing and helping people.  I believe in living out what you say you believe.  I believe that God works through each one of us to make this world a better place.  We are each the little boy in the poem who keeps throwing starfish back into the ocean because, "it makes a difference to that one".  Go save some starfish.

Monday, March 6, 2017

The choir

I have a choir of voices in my head. They have been there as long as I can remember. They tell me things like "You are worthless," "Everything is your fault," "You are broken," and You are unloveable." (not audible voices of course)

Through counseling and meditation I was able to shush them, but they always came back when life got tough.  Where did they come from and why couldn't I get rid of them?

I have had a revelation. Those voices are not evil spirits or people from my past. They are me. At different times in my life things happened that I processed negatively and the beliefs were born. I can't just bury or erase them because part of me believes they are true. I envision each of these past troubles as a voice speaking it's truth to me.

I think each of these little people inside me needs to be heard and healed instead of ignored.

I started with the youngest one. She (I) is a little baby who was held tightly and shushed by her mother whenever her Daddy was doing his college homework. I visualized her and asked her what she had to say. It was a lot. She said she learned that her needs were not important. She learned to hide her feelings because they were bad and displeased other people. She believed that it was her fault if other people failed and to never make someone else mad.

In my mind I held her and sought to speak the truth to her. I told her she was loved. I reminded her of pictures of her daddy playing with her and kind words her mom spoke through the years. Then I told her that she was not responsible for other people's choices. Her dad could have gone to the library; her mom could have taken her for a walk. Her fussing was not responsible for any trouble he had studying or any arguments they had over it. You had a right to express your needs at the time. Lastly, your mom and dad did the best they knew how at the time and they loved you.

In the end I could envision that little baby sleeping contentedly in her mom's arms. I don't think her voice will be in my choir any longer at least not the same way.

I am excited to start this journey. I believe it is the path to peace.





Saturday, November 26, 2016

OA- I'm Not in Charge of the World - Thank Goodness

Step two - Came to believe that a Power greater than ourselves could restore us to sanity.
Step three - Made a decision to turn our will and our lives over to the care of God as we understood Him.

I've been listening to a podcast step study and reading the AA Big Book to solidify my recommitment to the program.  In the Chapter called "How it Works" I found myself:

"..any life run on self-will can hardly be a success."

That sounds reasonable.  Not too many people hold up selfishness as a positive attribute.   Not many of us claim to be selfish, but...

"Each person is like an actor who wants to run the whole show... if only people would do as he wished, the show would be great.  Everybody, including himself, would be pleased.  Life would be wonderful... "

 Ouch - how many of us think life would be better if only people would listen to us?

"What usually happens? The show doesn't come off very well.  He begins to think life does not treat him right."

That sounds like my favorite complaint - It's not fair!!!

 "He decides to exert himself more."

  Me - I just have to work harder.

"He becomes... more demanding or gracious... Still the play does not suit him... He becomes angry, indignant, self-pitying... a producer of confusion rather than harmony...sure all would be Utopia if the rest of the world would only behave..."

So - yeah that pretty much sounds like my pity-party depression episodes. =(

So the real problem is "self-will run riot, though he usually does not think so."

I have been so busy trying to keep things running smoothly at work and at church that I did not realize the "I" was the problem.  I'm not responsible or capable to run the world.  I don't get to hold the reigns unless I want to crash. (and I have been crashing) 

So - what is the solution? 

"Above everything, we alcoholics (Me- dare I say, we humans) must be rid of this selfishness..."

How?

"God makes that possible... we had to quit playing God... in this drama of life, God was going to be our Director... He is the Father and we are His children.."

So when I am tied up in knots trying to please everyone and do everything that needs doing, I am trying to be in control  I am the director of my play.  It's about what I want.  I'm being selfish.  Big ouch.

Does that mean I don't do anything?  Nope - "We had a new Employer.  Being all powerful, He provided what we needed, if we kept close to Him and performed His work well."  My job is to stay close to the creator and do His will and His work, not mine.  Not my "little plans and designs" but instead "contribute to life". 

Giving my will and my plans over to God is the "triumphant arch through which we passed to freedom". 

So - I can have freedom and peace and purpose.  All I have to do is resign as the Queen of  the World? 

 I'm in -God, teach me to surrender each and every situation to you.  Help me to do your will and let go of the results.  Help me to remember You are in charge of the world.  I am only a servant - thank goodness.


Wednesday, November 23, 2016

OA - Starting Over

Step 1 - We admitted we were powerless over our addictions - that our lives had become unmanageable.

I recently came to a place where I needed to ask some hard questions about what did and did not belong in my life.  I was running too fast and trying to 'fix' everything.  Of course, it wasn't working out too well.  Depression was taking over and I was having other stress-related health problems. 

On advice from my counselor, I cleared my schedule and spent some time alone to decide what was really important to me.  I cut back on some of my commitments at work and at church.  I decided to focus more on my family and listening to God. 

During this time, I began to question my relationship with food.  I was avoiding certain foods and going to meetings but still starting to gain weight.  It just wasn't working for me anymore so I decided to quit.  I didn't know what to do so I abandoned my food rules.  It was not an emotional giving in to cravings, it was a calm decision to go back.  Maybe I was not an addict.  Maybe this was no longer the plan for me.  I had to find out.

Well, it only took a few days before I was eating handfuls of candy every time I walked through the kitchen, half a bag of cookies for snack, and two sundaes a day.  I also had a constant stomach ache and continual cravings for more.  OK maybe I did have the allergy of the body and the compulsion of the mind.  Maybe I really was an addict. 

I began to think about if and when I would be ready to 'quit'.  Realizing that I could not control food was step one but returning to the program would be a full commitment.  About that time a friend/mentor texted me to see if I would be coming back to the recovery meeting that week.  I told him what was going on with me.  He asked me what I had learned and what I was going to do about it.  That was what I needed at that moment - not a shoulder to cry on but someone to ask the tough question and help me face reality.  That night I had one last bowl of ice cream and the next morning I began a new day one.  I still felt sick and draggy.  I had no desire for food (totally strange for me)  It was almost my own version of a hang over.  I'm pretty sure my friend was praying for me. 

Four days later I returned to my weekly recovery meeting.  (It's a Christian 12-step group for people with various addictions.)  I told them my story.  They gave me love, support, and advice.  I like the person I am when I am there and I am honored to have such amazing people in my life to share my journey.  It's good to be home. 

Thursday, October 27, 2016

Lost

Usually I blog when I've had a breakthrough or a victory.  I try to share things that will help others.  Not today.  Today I just feel lost. 

 Depression, anger, fear... all my old enemies have been creeping in for about a month now.  I feel like I'm losing ground in all areas of my life and I don't want to care.  I just want to hide.

You would think something major must have happened, but you would be wrong.  It's just lots of things building up.  My mom used to say that everyone has a shelf in their mind for their problems and you can put them there and ignore them for awhile, but if the shelf gets too full it will break and you end up dealing with everything at once.  So, keep clearing off your shelf whenever you can.  I think mine is just about full. 

I'm tired of lots of things...  I want lots of things...

I want positive attention.  I want to feel appreciated.  I want to be good at things.  I want to lose weight.  I want to be happy.  I want to run away.  I want my children to be happy.  I'm tired of someone snarling at me.  I'm tired of watching people crash and burn. I'm tired of caring.  I want to stop feeling the darkness glide in.  Please make it stop hurting. 

I am still broken, I don't have it all figured out.  I still need healing. 

Sunday, September 25, 2016

OA - I'm a Recovering Human Being

     I am a Compulsive Overeater.  I am in recovery.  I go to meetings for food addiction and meetings set up for people of all addictions.  I hear people introduce themselves as recovering alcoholics, recovering drug addicts and other things. 

     This week I heard the best introduction ever.  My friend introduced herself as a recovering human being. 

     See this is how addiction works.  We were all born clean and free and full of hope.  Then life smacks us.  Maybe it's abuse or poverty or neglect.  Maybe it's rejection or abandonment.  Life can be painful.  So we look for help.  We may look to family or friends or social programs.  If and when these things fail us we look to something else to cover the pain.  It might be alcohol, drugs, food, sex, shopping, gambling or any of a number of escape agents.  They provide pleasure and excitement and take the pain away... for awhile.  Then the coping strategies become a trap and addiction sets in. 

     In recovery we learn to let go of our 'drug of choice' but more importantly we learn to live life.  We learn to walk through the ups and downs of each day without our blanket of comfort.  We learn to accept our problems and work on them instead of avoiding them.  We learn to smile and to cry.  We learn to feel.  We learn to be human.

     So, really I'm not a recovering food addict.  That does not define me or who I want to be.

     I am a recovering human being.

Monday, September 19, 2016

What's with the title?

I realize I have never explained my blog title - Jaki's Next Right Step.

One great piece of advice my OA sponsor gave me was to 'just do the next right thing'.  I think this was probably in response to my incessant habit of trying to plan out and/or worry about the next ten years of my life.  It might also have been during a time when I doubted my ability to complete a certain step in the 12 step process.  Either way her advice was to stop looking at the big picture which was paralyzing me and just do the next right thing.

Some days the next right thing is choosing a healthy food or exercising regardless of lack of desire.  Sometimes it's admitting my fears or helping someone else.

Sometimes the next right thing gets you in trouble.  I did something hard this week.  I did it to protect someone I love but they may not see it that way.  Sometimes the next right thing makes a situation worse for awhile.

This happened to Moses.  He told Pharaoh to let the Israelites go and instead, Pharaoh increased the slaves workload.  Their difficult lives got increasingly worse and they were angry at Moses for it.  Did Moses (who had an insecure, people pleasing personality) give up and go home or pull the covers over his head and cry like I would?  Nope, he went to God.  He did complain but he did it in prayer.  And then, at God's instruction, he did the next right thing.  He confronted Pharaoh again. 

That story is for me this week.  I don't know what the day/week/year has in store for me, but I can keep putting one foot in front of the other.  I can do the next right thing.