Back to the WOTY
Off by a day or two, but still, three posts in a week… a-MAH-zing!
I wanted to get back to my choice for WOTY (Word of the Year). I’ve been participating in this challenge for a few years now, with mixed results. Two years ago I picked the word energy, and felt… well, energized by it! Last year, I selected the word calm as my word for the year, and I would call that one a giant bust. 2016 was just about anything but calm!
This year I want to go in a different direction, and select an action word rather than a feeling. I selected the word service:
the action of helping or doing work for someone.“millions are involved in voluntary service”
synonyms: favor, kindness, good turn, helping hand; More
Why do I want to go with such a lofty word? Because to me, service sounds somewhat sanctimonious. But I don’t mean it that way at all.
One of the greatest lessons I learned through my participation in a 12-step program is the value of getting out of my own head. In fact, the final step in the 12-step process is just that… to pass along what you’ve learned to another person in need of recovery.
And of course that specific type of service is a wonderful thing, but my word choice is a whole lot broader than that. Here’s what I mean by service…
Josie’s Definition of Service:
Considering the perspective of another before my own. Understanding rather than being understood. Leaving people better than I found them.
It’s really that simple, although as I consider the past few months, that would be quite a shift. In sitting around and moping about my foot and unfulfilled career aspirations, I wasn’t sparing a whole lot of energy for the wants and needs of others.
And either path, self-centeredness or service, is the kind which builds upon itself. When I’m wallowing in self-pity, I can sink deeper and deeper. Likewise, when I have the mindset of consideration and thoughtfulness, that tends to be contagious as well. The question is: which mindset provides the most benefit?
Because that’s the truly amazing thing about service… that while the intention is to help another, you wind up helping yourself in the process. So even if I sound all saintly by choosing the word service, really I’m just cultivating positive self-growth!
So there you have it… let’s try to make 2017 the year to give back. Hopefully I’ll be better about checking in on the progress throughout the year!
The positive boost that comes from embarking on a new goal!
Word of the Year: Wrap-Up and Start-Up
Without any further ado, my word of 2015 was:
And I wrote a lengthy post as to its possible manifestations about a year or so ago.
I just re-read the post, which was full of all sorts of good intentions, and considered if I got the job done. Did I successfully commit 2015 as the year of energy?
It’s a tough question to answer. On the one hand, the Inner Critic wants to yell no, and for one very good reason. The bottom line for me was, at the time, I wanted energy to mean, first and foremost, some pretty specific things:
- lose weight
- increase fitness
- bonus if the entire basement was purged and organized
So if you take that fairly specific list, then no, energy was not very well spent… I did not lose weight, my fitness level has had starts and stops, just as it’s had in the past 3 or so years, and considering the basement as it is right now, after Christmas decorations have been more or less thrown down there, would drain the energy right out of my body.
So I’m not going to consider that.
Here’s the thing, though. My journey to achieve some of the things on the list above has taken me in directions heretofore unchartered: real, honest therapy, meditation classes and practice, a variety of fitness routines, books read, podcasts heard, and thousands of words journaled on mind-expanding subjects.
And through it all I’ve learned a heck of a lot about myself.
The best part of all: I have not given up. Another first in the life of this 46 year old. My modus operandi has always been if I can’t do it perfectly in an extremely short period of time, then I’m not doing it at all. This includes the horrific game Words With Friends, but excludes Candy Crush… I’m still plugging away at that one, and I’m the only one I know who’s sticking with it!
So I’m going to continue on self-development this year and see where it takes me. So far it has taken me to some interesting places, given me a life-changing new friendship, and the possibility of substantial change in the coming year.
So, considering all of that, I’m giving energy a thumbs up, even if my basement’s still a wreck. There’s always 2016 for that one. Plus, I’m currently reading Marie Kondo, so I expect to find the inspiration very soon.
Moving on to this year, my word for the year came a day or two before the year began. As many of the blogging friends have shared, this word chose me rather than me choosing it. And this word has challenge etched into every letter. My word for 2016 is:
The idea came to me while watching the movie The Intern with Robert DeNiro. The movie itself was so/so, but I adored everything about the character he played in that movie. I even said to my husband at the end, “That character is everything I want to be when I grow up.” No matter what life threw his way, no matter how anyone treated him, he responded evenly, thoughtfully, politely.
The story line, in case you have not seen the movie, is the character deciding after a few years of retirement and living the life of a widower, that he had more to offer this world, so he applied for a senior intern position at a start-up internet company. He was overlooked, condescended to, and largely misunderstood, and yet remained unflappable. In the end, of course, everyone adored him.
Which is not the part I’m looking to emulate.
I don’t think.
Seriously, I just love the idea of remaining calm in the face of anything.
This, it should go without saying, is an uphill battle. I have friends that try to provoke me because they so thoroughly enjoy my somewhat excitable reactive nature. Those friends are going to be disappointed this year.
Now, I will say, I picked this right away, it is currently January 8, and I have done very little in terms of making headway with this goal. In fact, it almost seems like I’m moving in the opposite direction so far: big yelling matches with a family member, ongoing frustrations with a moody teenage daughter, impatience with customer service representatives.
All I can say is: Rome wasn’t built in a day. And the fact that I’m noticing is progress. Maybe.
So there you have it. Calm for 2016. Bring it on!
How about this… TGIF, the miracle of the weekend and sleeping in!
M(3), 11/9/15: Prayer is Talking, Meditation is Listening
Today was a slooowwww meeting…. the type of meeting that has you staring at the clock, and wondering if the battery has died.
Strange, really, because today we read a relatively long chapter from the book Twelve Steps and Twelve traditions, so there was less sharing time, rather than more. Plus the step we covered,
Sought through prayer and meditation to improve our conscious contact with God as we understood him, asking only for His will for us and the power to carry it out
is one that typically has people lined up to share their experiences with both prayer and meditation. Not so today, which makes for a slightly uncomfortable meeting. Well, uncomfortable for the chairperson, at least… nothing makes me squirm more than protracted silence in a meeting!
So I possibly talked longer than necessary about my experience with prayer and meditation, as it relates to both recovery and, well, just life itself. Coming into recovery I has no fundamental issue with the concept of a Higher Power, or praying to a Higher Power, but I suppose I had significant skepticism that my Higher Power would listen or respond. To my way of thinking at the time, I had prayed about a gazillion times for Him to help me stop drinking. What makes my current prayers easier to hear than those in active addiction?
And while I’ll never know the official answer, my best guess is the quality of the prayers, rather than the quantity. When I hit my alcoholic bottom the prayer wasn’t urgent, with a time stamp on it… “God, help me out of this crisis and I’ll never drink again!” There was no bargaining; I had no chips left to use. There was nothing left but a hopeless sincerity: I need help, I’m out of answers.
For whatever reason, it worked. And continues to do so, in matters both large and small.
So prayer has been a regular part of my life for as long as I’ve been sober. Meditation, not so much. I’ve had small periods of maintaining a daily practice. Regular readers probably remember I took a course on meditation, and got a heck of a lot out of it. In fact, my longest stretch of daily meditation came right after completing that course.
Then summer came, and there went the practice.
I am now a few weeks into a short, but daily, meditation practice. And while I’m not going to say I’ve been transformed, I can say I notice some distinct benefits. Probably the main difference I notice is my ability to detach from the fun house that can be my thought process. It doesn’t stop the craziness, but it most definitely slows it down. More importantly, I am aware that the thoughts and feelings are not facts, and I can disengage from them, rather than allowing them to swallow me whole.
When that happens, my friends, it is a freaking miracle!
Other than my rambling about prayer and meditation, I was able to eke out a few pearls of wisdom from the various attendees:
One regular attendee also claims religious ministry as his profession. He says there are a multitude of ways in which to practice both prayer and meditation; whatever works is a great way to go. For him, prayer is talking to God, whereas meditation is listening for God’s answer.
Another regular had a very difficult time with the concept of prayer in early sobriety, but after trying it with a simple, “God, please keep me sober today,” he found himself a believer because of its effectiveness. Thirty six sober years later, and he still prays that simple prayer daily!
A woman shared how difficult the practice of meditation continues to be for her. She finds she has to concentrate so hard, the meditative quality seems to vanish! She knows, though, when she even makes the effort, she is better able to slow her thoughts down for the rest of the day.
Finally, a gentleman raised his hand and shared he had relapsed a few weeks back, and is currently fighting his way back to comfortable sobriety. He said the first things to go when he picked up a drink were prayer, meditation, and 12-step meetings. His lapse lasted about 2 months, but the picture he painted of his emotional state during those two months was grim, the kind of wake-up call every recovering alcoholic needs to hear before they decide to pick a drink again. Despite the hardship he enjoyed, his faith has not wavered: he feels profound gratitude to be sitting back in the seat of a 12-step meeting again. He believe he has been given a gift, and he is willing to do whatever it takes to stay sober.
As always, I am humbled and grateful when a person has the courage to share with all of us his story of relapse, for it gives the rest of us a reason to stay sober today.
After an excellent weekend of kids’ athletic triumphs (my son qualified for a NATIONAL cross-country meet!), I am reminded this morning how blessed I am to be sober, today and every day.