Posted by: innerpilgrimage | October 25, 2012

“I Unleash My Creative Spirit”

      The title is an affirmation I got from a Louise Hay book on affirmations.

      Affirmations are a powerful way to create new messages to counteract the damaging messages I tell myself in addiction. In her book, I Can Do It: How to Use Affirmations to Change Your Life, Louise L. Hay offers a way to turn negative messages into positive ones. By addressing negative thoughts, one can turn them into positive ones and learn to focus on the positive in life. By giving attention to things we want to find in our lives today and tomorrow, we are setting up a sense of awareness of those things today. I strongly believe the Gremlin Effect (that awareness of the AMC Gremlin making them seemingly appear everywhere) works precisely the same way as affirmations. We draw these positive things into our lives because we are consciously and unconsciously looking for them. The reality that is all around us has everything possible within it. The energy we put into our lives makes us able to focus on people, places, and situations related to that energy. If I say, “I am a loser,” I am going to focus on people, places, and situations which create loss and they will appear to be attracted to my life. I’m not actually attracting these things; I’m simply ignoring the things which I would not associate with losing and I am focusing on things which strengthen that negative self-image message of being a loser. Awareness is a two-way street: I can be aware of the positive progress I am making, or I can be aware of the failures and punish myself over them. It’s a neutral action, awareness. I can, however, direct that attention in any number of ways. So, that’s how I consider awareness works both as a means to self-destruct in addiction or to progress in recovery.
      By taking those damaging messages and creating their life-affirming counterparts, we can give those positive beliefs strength and credence. The transformative power of even adding a new belief, through mantra-like repetition until it is stuck in there just like the addict beliefs–can give us the free will to choose between them. I don’t want to choose to believe my body is ugly because it is imperfect. If I am given a choice between hating and loving it, having the message of love of self over hatred of self is a gift of recovery. Will I ever be normal? No. But I can be recovered, and that’s a pretty special gift. I have the empathy necessary to reach out to others who suffer from trauma and use external sources of validation to find self-worth. I have the empathy necessary to reach out to others who change themselves in order to earn others’ acceptance, no matter in which stage of inauthenticity one is. I have gone from pretending to be who I’m not to losing who I am completely. I don’t know who I am. Though terrifying, I can use an affirmation to express it as opportunity to learn about myself. With experience (losing my connection to my authentic self), strength (a willingness to surrender to the tools of recovery in order to find my authentic self), and hope (becoming aware of then living as my authentic self), I can be of service to people who are currently suffering. And, if I commit to journeying through the twelve steps and living program, I can sponsor others as an atheist 12-Stepper.
     
      TRANSCENDENCE, TRANSFERENCE, AND TRANSITION
     
      I do not believe in transcendence. I believe what Carl Sagan said: “The Cosmos is all that is or ever was or ever will be.” If deities exist, they are part of that. I cannot know, but I trust that transcendence does not exist.
      Transference does exist. In psychoanalysis, the emotions and desires of an individual is transferred from another person to a therapist. I believe transference is not just done to people. Worry, or trouble, dolls take on the anxieties of children to allow them to sleep. Animal totems take on the troubles of individuals who turn to them. Deities receive power over the absolute, infinite, and eternal; individuals cannot find answers for the mysteries of being which people are desperate to understand, so a deity takes on control of those things in order to not leave us in the dark about the big questions which have no answer or only self-evident ones.
      Transition is the act of change, of accepting our place in the cosmos. To paraphrase Andre Comte-Sponville, we are relative, finite, and transitory (limited) beings in a reality which is absolute, infinite, and eternal. “Its limits are permanently beyond our reach. It envelops, contains, and exceeds us,” Comte-Sponville writes. That we have a brain of such power to even consider the absolute, infinite, and eternal is a gift and curse. However, if we are willing to experience the unknown, if we are willing to accept we do not and cannot know what exceeds and envelops us, and are willing to appreciate the causa sui of being, itself? We can live a spiritual life as atheists. Everyone can have spiritual experiences with or without a deity, because we all experience the sensory input that we define as spiritual experiences in our lives–those moments when we touch eternity (or sempiternity, the “eternal today” or the “perpetual today”) and are left changed by the mystic experience. We end in that moment and are reborn to a new life. Hitting rock bottom then entering a meeting room then even beginning stepwork and recovery is a series of mystical experiences which transition us into a rebirth within our lifetimes. Progress and evolution are part of the natural order of things, the flow of nature. “Progress, not perfection,” is a 12-Step slogan which acknowledges the impermanence and gives us an alternative to the despair of trying to achieve the inachievable. We can never become absolute, infinite, and eternal in this lifetime. We are in a state of being, and we experience the world from a relative and incomplete viewpoint, from an awareness that we cannot control everything, from an awareness that our physical being will end as every living being on earth does. Embracing transition respects nature; seeking a cure for imperfection does not respect nature.
     
      AWARENESS AND AUTHENTICITY
     
      Well, I am learning about what I am drawn to do, clues to my authentic self. Now, yes, I turn those joys into work by overcommitting myself to the point that I either procrastinate or walk away resentful at the burden I took on trying to make myself look good to others. Trying to earn their approval as “The Nice One”, “The Dependable One”. What’s ironic is that I end up not-nice and not-reliable. I can be a high-functioning person, but if I am doing it for others’ approval of me instead of for the personal serenity and joy? It loses the qualities which drew me to it in the first place.
      First things first: I like to play. Immediately, the addict messages, “Grow up!” and “Stop being so immature!” come to mind. Yet nearly every piece of literature on healthy people says that play is part of the self-care process. I fear that I will choose some kind of immature play and that I will be shamed for it. (Hello CoDA awareness!) The games adults play tend to be dull and unpleasant, and I often choose games which I can win because they are simple and require very little strategy or a straightforward strategy that makes sense to my brand of logic and intellect. I can draw defeat out of a winning midgame of checkers and chess, but I do very well at backgammon and dominoes. I’ve gotten good at games like Reversi by creating simple rules (dominating certain squares consistently) and following them to a conclusion–generally, my victory. I create rules I don’t break, and I tend to win more than lose in those situations.
      That’s not playing, that’s manipulating an outcome. Play is uninhibited, joyful, childlike. It is how children learn. The difficulty is that I am stunted and locked in one time period. I want to be silly naturally. Will I change out of that? Possibly, but to follow that is to respect it.
      I love creative arts and crafts associated with whimsy. I love making amigurumi, origami, and other silly things which make people feel comfort or find laughter. Although I was frustrated by several crochet projects, when I was done? I was pleased with the outcome–for the most part. The perfectionism is a constant specter, and it frustrates me. The desire to have people appreciate that I gave them my precious time to create is also a stumbling block. I lost the joy of creativity for creativity’s sake. When and why are a current mystery I am sure will be revealed in time.
      That’s not creating, that’s piecemeal work. I expect to get paid for my labor, and I will trigger resentment if it isn’t what I want.
      I love to express myself through what I wear. Currently, I enjoy wearing boys’ tees and jeans. I am clearly sending a message that I want to play, that I want to laugh, that I want to live a life of humor and adventure. I am comfortable in casual clothes with character. They don’t define me. However, when I dress up, it is all about making an impression. I am conscious of the message I am seeking to project, and usually it’s a hunting-for-approval message.
      That’s not expressing myself through what I wear, it’s projecting a character which doesn’t exist in order to receive flattery. And I will be self-punitive for considering it, by going the opposite direction and not self-caring. The basics–taking a daily shower, brushing my teeth regularly, eating food that makes me feel mentally alert and physically strong–are neglected. I become anorectic in order to punish myself for even thinking of acting out behaviors. The fear of punishment by people who take my behavior personally and the shame of being humiliated by them even as I am ashamed that I cannot be socially and fully emotionally healthy is causing me pain even as I do nothing to bring embarrassment to the people who are associated with me.
      However, there is hope.
      I have a crochet book from the library, Think Pink, published by Annie’s Attic. In it, I found a pattern for an absolutely adorable hat called Pigtail Hat. It is a pink crocheted beanie with crocheted bangs and bow-decorated braids of yarn attached to the hat. I look at that, and I think how wonderful it would be to make those for women and girls going through chemotherapy. It’s playful and fun. The difficulty will be to make them (which satsfies my mental and physical meditative needs) without (1) overcommitting, (2) seeking perfectionism, (3) seeking approval and resenting not experiencing the right level of approval–too little, and I feel unappreciated, yet too much, and I feel flattered insincerely. There’s no winning in the addict mentality. There’s no progress in the addict mentality.
      I have to surrender solely to the joy of creation, itself. I did, once, when I did the homeless hats. The addict mentality took over as I overcommitted. I wanted that appreciation. Over time, I realized that it didn’t matter if I got thanks. I put something into the world which wasn’t there before, something which could be used to comfort 50 more people than would have been had I done nothing at all. Reaching into my own humanity and reaching out to others to make a better world satisfies that ineffable part within.
      So, I suppose that’s part of surrendering to the vulnerability. I feel more human when I create. I feel more human when I add fun and beauty and spontaneous joy and warmth to the world–even if others don’t want to partake in it. I mean, a woman named Darla Sims thought like I do and created a pink hat with silly braids and crocheted curly bangs, adding bows on the braids to make it even sillier. She sent it into Annie’s Attic to hopefully be published, and the editors saw her pattern and decided it was worth publication. People make the hat for friends, because they decide it’s worth giving to others as a fun means of self-expression during a challenging time in one’s life. The question I want to know from authentic self is: “If other adults can embrace this kind of playfulness, why am I supposed to feel such fear and potential shame that I decide to exclude myself?” I want to make one, and I want to give it away to someone who’d enjoy it. To be honest, if I made a dozen and gave them to a pediatric ward for the nurses to dispense? They would give them to the girls who wanted them–much like the St. Vincent de Paul Society used those hats and scarves I made last year. Do I know how they used them? No. They could have gone to the homeless. They could have gone to the families who ate in the dining rooms as Christmas presents. What I trust is that, when given two large bags of crocheted stuff at winter, the St. Vincent de Paul Society sent what I made into the community for at least one winter season. What I made was out there at all, and that’s what is important. I took real action to improve my life (I wasn’t eating when I was crocheting) and I used that energy to add to the world instead of fret over my fears, shames, and imperfections.
      Welp, I guess it’s all about progress, not perfection. Awareness of options besides my default coping mechanisms. The gift of real choice, of turning from the codependency coping and survival mechanisms to recovered actions and participation in my own life.
     
      My name is Jess–I am a layered addict. Compulsive about food, compulsive about approval, compulsively codependent. My addictions are acted out in the extremes: I hedonistically overindulge or I punitively restrict. There is no in-between when it comes to my coping mechanisms. That’s why I want to progress in recovery. I want to participate in my life. I want to surrender my fear that I can’t do anything but cope and my shame that I don’t like my compulsive behaviors. I am not, authentically, a compulsive person. That was how I coped with the things I could not and cannot accept. There is a choice, and that choice is living recovery.
     
      I choose recovery.

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