Looking back on 2012, my personal journey

1 01 2013

By Julia Indigo/@juliaindigo

Yes, I’m back.

2012 was a year of extremes for me.

January: In the middle of an incredibly busy month, I was diagnosed with sleep apnea. I started Row80, but was unable to keep up with it due to my health problems.

February: A young friend who was working with us from time to time stayed with me, and I loved her company. I learned a lot from her! She continued to stay with me off and on through the beginning of June.

March: I continued to deal with shattering exhaustion from years of sleep problems, calling in sick frequently. However, better sleep finally began to turn my health around, and by the end of the month I was feeling almost normal.

April: So normal that I attempted Row80 again. Call me a glutton for punishment! I hit my stride in April.

May: Work was overwhelmingly busy, but I soldiered on.

June: I was still on-point with my blogging, writing about my novel and the science behind it. I also took an audition with two weeks of preparation. I don’t recommend that to anyone! It was an exhausting experience, and I will not fly American Airlines again, until they are out of bankruptcy.

July: The Black Dog of depression came home again.

August: There was nothing memorable about the first three weeks of August. I wasn’t dealing well with the Black Dog. At the very end of the month I went on a last-minute driving trip to New Mexico and Colorado.

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The Red Rocks of New Mexico, from the pixabay folder of user Brigitte Werner

During that trip I ended up in Boulder, CO for the first time ever. That’s significant because my protag spends 6 years there at CU, and although those years aren’t a significant part of the book as currently visualized, it does shape the man he becomes.

September: I was barely home when my former BFF bludgeoned me in a meeting about work. Within two days I spiraled into anxiety, which danced with the Black Dog as I worked out how to deal with both. I went back to Al-Anon, finding a home group that’s full of recovery, and considered going back to church. The 27th of the month another good friend had a ‘cardiac event’. Did I ever mention that my number one fear is a heart attack?

October: Much of my friend’s hospital time happened in October: a double bypass, four Code Blues, pulmonary emboli, and an internal defibrillator. I continued to deal with waves of anxiety and depression. There was no question of doing anything creative… it was one day at a time at this point. I went to a church which had been recommended to me a couple of times, but didn’t connect. (My friend is currently on the mend, thank heavens!)

November: Our symphony season was in full swing, and my other BFF was back in the US from overseas. She was with me part of the time here at home, and I went with her to Boulder for Thanksgiving with her cousins. It wasn’t terribly cold there yet, but I loved spending more time there with her… and I also got my desire to live there out of my system. My anxiety finally began to wane this month.

December: I finally got the Black Dog under control, and we had some time off from work. To my delight, I found that my creative juices were starting to surface again! Playing the Nutcracker got me in the holiday spirit, and the 25th Anniversary of the publication of Tom Wolfe’s Bonfire of the Vanities spurred me to read it for the first time. I intended to study it (and still will) – though I haven’t finished it yet, because I joined a book club at work, and devoured Yann Martel’s Life of Pi in two days for a book club meet. Christmas was spent with my parents, on some of the coldest days thus far this winter. Back home on the 26th, then on December 30th I found my church! I’ve never considered a downtown church, but the moment I stepped into the sanctuary at St. Mark’s Episcopal Church I knew I was home.

Losing my BFF has spurred a spiritual transformation in my life. I turned 55 in September, and made the decision in August to stop coloring my hair. The transformation of the growing-out process mirrors what’s going on inside of me… I’m coming to terms with my age and station in life, now enthusiastic and full of possibilities for personal growth in this second half of life.

I doubt that I will return to Row80 until later this year, but that doesn’t mean that 2013 is goal-less. More about that later on! It’s enough to say that I will be blogging once a week, starting now.

What was 2012 like for you? How did it change you? Let me know in the comments!





Worry: warts and all

3 07 2012

By Julia Indigo/@juliaindigo

 

Worrying about what’s going to happen is a negative contribution to the future. Living in the here and now is ultimately the best thing we can do, not only for today, but for tomorrow. Things will work out, if we let them. If we must focus on the future other than to plan, all we need to do is affirm that it will be good. I pray for faith that staying in the present is the best thing I can do for my future. I will focus on what’s happening now, instead of what’s going to happen tomorrow.

From The Language of Letting Go by Melody Beattie

Many years ago I was part of the fellowship of CoDependents Anonymous, a 12-step group based on the principals of Alcoholics Anonymous, for people who have been adversely effected by someone else’s addictions/garden-variety craziness/etc. I found a lot of good there, and one of the things that I became aware of was the work of Melody Beattie. And no, I have no idea how to say her name.

She wrote the first books on CoDA: her books Codependent No More and Beyond Codependency were our bibles back in ’87.  I practically memorized the bloody things, and had a double handful of daily meditation books like the above-quoted The Language of Letting Go. I thought enough of the above quote to type it up on my DOS machine and print it out on an index card. It lived in my flute case for years.

I found it again the other day, and its truth still hits me at my core. In the past several months – oh hell, make it three-four years – I’ve been alternately stressing and obsessing, and actively avoiding thinking about any number of things. Note: I graduated from acupuncture school June of 2007, and you remember what happened in 2008, right? Financial meltdown. Holy. Crap. Student loans, a failed relationship, and no income to speak of.

That being said, I noticed something many, many moons ago. I have been taken care of all along. I look back at my life, and even though I was dealing with a multitude of issues from my past, I still had everything that I needed. Wanted? Nope. But I had what I needed. And I have what I need, today. Every tomorrow I’ve ever experienced has been the same. I’ve received what I needed.

So, why worry? Perhaps because it’s a bad habit, a superstition. If I keep on worrying, then certainly things will turn out okay, right? If I stop worrying and just relax, then everything will go crab-wise, right?

Um. No. I don’t think it works that way.

All my worrying has accomplished is that it’s given me grey hair and acid reflux.

 And… more importantly…

It’s kept me from myself. If I’m worrying about tomorrow, or next month, or next year, then I’m not Here, Now. I’m not with myself. That’s the problem which got me to CoDA in the first place! We CoDependents abandon ourselves to take care of others… and it’s just another kind of addiction. Remember how I said that Steven uses alcohol, nicotine, and women to avoid the pain in his soul? Many of us (okay, I) do the same thing, using socially-acceptable WORRY. If we’re worried, then we’re obviously trying to take care of things, right? That’s a good thing, right?

Um. No. Not when it serves to obscure the reality of our Present Lives. Because worrying is not doing.

Today, do what needs to be done, and leave the rest for tomorrow.

What is your relationship with worry? Are you trusting and carefree? Do you face life with a smile? Or are you battening down the hatches, hoping against hope that things will somehow work out? Let me know in the comments! They are appreciated, as always.





Addiction and the Soul-Hole

29 06 2012

By Julia Indigo/@juliaindigo

 

What is the cause of addiction? Bucket loads of research have been done to answer that question. Some think it’s genetic – alcoholism runs in families, for instance – but co-dependency and learned behavior happen in families as well. In many addictions there is a substance that ‘hooks’ the user: nicotine, alcohol, cocaine, heroin, while in others the ‘fix’ is a compulsive behavior: gambling addiction, binging/purging, sexual compulsion. In either case, it appears that there is a change in the function of the brain.

Some addictions have met with approval in some circles: workaholism, smoking in the 1950s (think of the Classic Movie channel), and sexual crimes (think the gang bang as a gang initiation). All that has changed in the past 50 or so years, with increasingly restrictive laws governing public smoking, DWI and DUI, and drug incarceration.

More interesting to me is the emerging brain science concerning behavioral addiction/compulsion. In an article posted on November 20, 2011, Hilarie Cash writes:

When we enjoy playing video games or get caught up in gambling, we experience a similar euphoria. These highs are not something to be worried about, in moderation. The addiction begins to take hold, however, when we do it too much. Then the brain is forced to withdraw neuro-receptors in an effort to restore balance. This is what we call tolerance, and we no longer get the high from the same level of activity or drug use. Now, we need more. And if we go without, we go into withdrawal. In the case of behavioral addictions, that withdrawal involves primarily psychological symptoms (irritability, restlessness, poor concentration, increased anxiety and depression, etc).

In this article from June 2011, Alexandra Katehakis writes:

Both Robert and Clarissa suffered emotional deprivation in childhood. Both have developed rituals to mask the wounds that never healed. While their motivation and end result–despair–are the same, their acting-out blueprints are different.

Clarissa’s compulsions are more indicative of a love addict. Her interactive style is labile, with a come-here/go-away emotional charge that is echoed in her chaotic relationships. Clarissa’s “drug” of choice is less about sex than about a particular romantic experience.

A classic sex addict, Robert is more attached to specific sex acts and sexual encounters than to people. His style of relating is detached, aloof, and avoidant–thus his preference for nameless, interchangeable sex partners.

 


I believe that one key to addictive behavior is childhood emotional deprivation. In my protagonist Steven’s case, a series of emotional wounds in childhood and again in later life led to a separation from his essential self. His addictive behaviors serve to mask a deep inner discomfort – he describes it as ‘an itch that can’t be scratched’ – and as long as he returns to his compulsive behavior, that itch will not be healed.

While he is truly addicted to nicotine (and later, alcohol), his sexual acting-out becomes a behavioral compulsion, in the same way that someone can be drawn into out of control gambling or video gaming. While there is societal approval in some circles for the kind of things he does, for the most part men like him are a father’s nightmare.

 

He is a typical liberal college prof, as well as a Cradle Catholic and feminist. If you think that adds to his ‘itchiness’, you’d be right! Even he has difficulty reconciling his beliefs with his behaviors; his logical scientist’s mind rationalizes what his soul cannot accept. This inner conflict further feeds his desire to do whatever he can to bury that primal wound, until he finds himself sucked into the maelstrom called ‘hitting bottom’.

 

And what happens next? It’s a twisty/turn-y story which I hope will keep Steven Canelli in your thoughts for some time to come.





Catching up, part deux

19 02 2012

My day job has ‘dark weeks’ – weeks with no work/no pay. This past week was one of those, and it came just in time. I had lunch on Friday with someone who is involved with the company, and he asked how I had survived the previous five weeks – that’s when I realized that it had been a time that was noticeably more stressful than usual.

My November was stressful at work and I added NaNoWriMo to the mix. December was supposed to be relaxing, but my vacation was anything but that. Then came January and the above stressful working conditions… no wonder I was exhausted, when you add in my likely medical condition. Uff da.

Like a lot (most?) people, when I’m in the middle of things I don’t notice what’s going on, or the affect that it’s having on me. I just do what needs to get done, and if I’m having physical symptoms, I push through it. Now, at fifty-four, with a newish medical condition, it’s not working so well.

And what am I going to do about it? It’s times like this when I need a nurturing mother to stand by my side. Yes, my Mom is still alive, but at eighty-one she has her own issues, after a lifetime of being hard on herself (a lesson I learned in SPADES). So I’m going to step up to the plate and be my own nurturing mother.

It’s not that I don’t have resources – I do! – and it’s not that I don’t have ideas of what could be helpful. The first thing is to stop running long enough to breathe, pause, and take stock of my condition. When I do that, I’m not pleased with what I see. The inmates are running the asylum.

I had an interesting experience last night. I recently signed up for Holly Lisle’s “How To Think Sideways” class, and the first exercises were about busting through blocks by seeing, among other things, the false beliefs that one holds about what is the ‘safe’ way to live. It took me three weeks to sit down and actually do the exercise, and when I sat down to do it I was like a fidgety 7-year-old kid with ADHD. And when I actually finished, I realized that the most important thing that I can do is to Be My Own Mother.

And what does Mother think that Little Julia needs? To be present with her own pain.

Ouch. Did I just write that? I guess so, since my first WIP is about the disaster that one man’s life becomes when he is unable to do just that. He’s constantly medicating his pain, running away from it, with work, with cigarettes, with alcohol, with women. Now, I don’t do any of the above… but I can see why someone would do that.

Just be present with my pain, my frustrations, my anger, my disappointments.

Just breathe.








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