as we grow older and hopefully wiser, we become aware of ourselves. we sense our tendencies and personalities. our weaknesses and our strengths become actual weaknesses and strengths, not just these “things” we’d heard of when filling out personality profiles or talking about in job interviews.
it was in those first sessions where my therapist revealed to me that i was on a mission to destroy myself one thread at a time, due to a habit; a way of living that was so entrenched in my being, so very much a part of my daily operations that i had no awareness of its insidious nature.
everyone has their predilections, their habits and the things that exploit their weaknesses and destroy their strengths. i used to be like the tasmanian devil. i was aware of this. i used to cry-laugh about how i would come into a situation and leave everything upside down and tables strewn about the room with papers flying everywhere. inside, i desperately wanted to be like a daisy in time-lapse photography. i wanted to be slower, to reveal myself slower, to engage instead of bulldoze, to listen instead of always insist i was right, to speak instead of shout, to Adagio instead of march.
being Taz came from a primitive place: i wanted so desperately to be seen, heard, appreciated and understood as a child that as i “grew up,” i never noticed others noticing me. i had to turn it up to eleven. always. i realize now, that when i enter a room and no one looks up, it’s working; i’m beating my addiction.
i come from a lineage of people with very strong habits. we are mostly irish. my great grandpeople were sledgehammer slamming, hard-driving brogue-slingers who helped build the New York railway. i dig that. my genetic family’s stores of physical energy and mental prowess are a thing of beauty in theory. in practical life however it means we have enough energy to think and over think and think some more and stir up stuff, most of it irrational, because of our thinking and remembering. sometimes that thinking is good, sometimes it’s not good.
in keeping with my irish tradition of having too much of a good thing, i learned through my psychotherapy after that dream that i have an addiction. of course i thought that was total bullshit. i saw brilliant members of my family succumb to alcoholism, gambling, smoking, drugs and over-thinking. because my days of collegial over-drinking were behind me, drugs didn’t hold much appeal for me nor did cigarettes and gambling required my giving away money on a hunch (my friends and family know never to bet against me because when i’m willing to put money down on anything it’s because i KNOW i am correct) so my diagnosis of having an addiction was complete crap because i was on a mission to be sober, fit, hard-working, active and engaging. y’know: eleven.
my so-called (whatever) addiction (right) could be only one thing, that i was a “thinker.” the problem with only my brand of thinking is that eventually, the blood supply to feeling atrophies and it creates a whole other level of thinking, where the tasmanian devil reacts and reigns. the bloodline to feeling (self-awareness, emotions and physical awareness) needed to be open for me to heal.
my drug of choice is a by-product of the thinking (i’ll tell ya in a minute). it’s free. it’s available anywhere at all hours. you don’t need to be a certain age to get some and you don’t gain weight from it or lose brain cells from abusing it. you don’t need a prescription. if you don’t see any around, you just make it yourself. it’s real easy: just lose your shit over the tiniest things. in fact, if you grew up with it, like i did, it’s even easier to re-create it because you have some of its dust in your pocket or in some of the things you took from your parent’s house to your house without awareness. objects have their own energy and they carry your memories and relationships with them, so if you have something around that came from a sad time, get rid of it or attach happy memories to it. i know this sounds crazy, but it’s true.
my object of desire is Chaos. my therapist told me at the end of my first. session. ever. that i have a Chaos addiction. i have it right here in my notebook titled “Be The Daisy”: “3.16.05: little surprise that i thrive in Chaos. love drama; need to step out of it. see how i create drama. 90% of actions are subconscious formed by patterns we endured / experienced as kids — trick: to become AWARE and learn to avoid it.”
apparently since i moved out of my parent’s place, i’ve had a bottle of Chaos on a shelf in every room of my house, including closets, bathrooms, the kitchen, workout areas and the shed. i have one in my car and i have a tiny one hanging from my key chain. i think there’s an app for it on my cell phone (facebook). there’s a little bottle in my purse. and i have a travel flask of Chaos for when i fly. it’s FAA-approved.
most of the bottles are coated with a tell-tale layer of dust. the dust is a reminder to let the bottle, no matter where it is, gather more dust because that dust means i haven’t picked it up, looked at it and wrenched off its cap or bitten off its cork to sip from it. i used to drink a case of Chaos a day for years before i started therapy. these bottles of Chaos are The One Thing in My World the cleaning ladies aren’t allowed to make perfect. like a bottle of 100-yr-old scotch, you want dust on these bottles.
i just passed a bottle of Chaos on the way to get my therapy notebook. the bottle was sitting next to a crumb-covered dish my son left beside the computer keyboard. instantly i became irritated by the dish, felt my muscles prepare for battle, took in a deep breath to unleash my dragon and proclaim the broken rule (food near computer — which wasn’t really the problem, it was deeper than that: it was my feeling of insult from being unseen and disregarded) and demand correction. but i stopped myself, laughing inside at the irony of my near-collision with Chaos while in the process of writing about my addiction to it. i decided to let it go. i picked up the dish, nudged my son on the shoulder, gave the raised eyebrow, gestured the dish and he took it from me for prompt delivery to the kitchen.
i’m not kidding: this shit’s insidious. if it weren’t for my awareness of my ability to lose my temper over little-seeming things (aka scars from my past), i’d never know about the Addiction to Chaos. it’s because i grew up with it, was surrounded by it and trained by some of the world’s finest Chaos fomenters that i became one myself.
the opportunities for Chaos and (depending on the circumstances) its wingman, Ensuing Shame or Guilt or Personal Offense (which create their own Chaos in a family system) are everywhere:
- be late for an appointment;
- delay cooking dinner;
- don’t walk the dog;
- put on a couple pounds;
- sign up for too much / don’t say no / don’t delegate;
- ignore the kids;
- be offended when others are late;
- have secret expectations;
- distract yourself beyond ability to do anything predictable;
- expect your friends to treat you the way you treat them;
- fall behind on a project that no one knows about;
- unleash venom disproportionate to the offense;
- hold yourself up to unrealistic standards;
- never allow personal mistakes;
- give more in a relationship than you get;
- have secret needs and expect people to understand your rage;
- repeate old patterns of behavior with toxic people and expect them to change simply because you have. . .
omigawd, it goes on and on.
once the Chaos was outed, The Work began: i had to see patterns where it manifested and more importantly, where i created it if it were missing:
Ooh, i like that chair where it is, and the table works just fine. the way the light hits the color on the walls in wonderful. what i think the room needs to feel more like home to me is my rage and Chaos: why didn’t anyone ask me to help?!? you’re all jerks.
my relationship with Chaos had become so much a part of my fabric of being that if i didn’t sense it, i would make it. imagine: a quiet library. it’s peaceful, calm and the energy is silent industry. that made me insane; everyone was so content … NOTICE ME! i loved the idea of reading. . . but the chairs were uncomfortable. the lighting was wrong. why won’t that kid shut up? why is that person looking at me? eww. this book smells like filth. what’s that stain from? gross, there’s a hair in this book. these people can’t do anything right so i’m leaving. NOW. in my 2-ton SUV in a self-righteous rage over the hair in a book and i’m going to scour the county to buy my own copy of the book instead of borrow it for no cost and then get pissed at myself later for spending the money when i know finances are tight; but then i’ll blame that on my husband for not keeping me more on my toes…
see? i’m a pro.
or this old one: everyone is sitting on the couch watching a movie. it’s a nice moment. but i’m begging for a phone call from my toxic friend who needed me to tell her how screwed up she was and how often she repeated her patterns so we can have a fight and i can preach and vaunt all my anger at her. i recognize right now at this instant as i type that somewhere in me, i subconsciously wanted out of the Chaos, not the relationships. i knew the relationships were sickening for me because i would freak in order to create divide. i miss the people. but people are their habits and when people don’t change, you’re stuck until you’re not anymore.
i have another note: “I need to abandon before things become “pattern-istic” and they repeat and I get sucked in and I explode. Are the explosions what do me in? No. They are what feeds me and this food is toxic.” imagine getting energy from an explosion… that’s some bad shit. talk about Schadenfreude.
so you see, Chaos also showed up as a repeating pattern in my relationships with Certain Types of Women based on my nearly constant tempestuous relationship with my own mother: i was constantly giving more than getting which of course allowed me to get pissed. i would actually seek out women whose energy was similar to my mother’s: deeply smart, invisible, unavailable, distracted (unaware) and angry women. i became friendly with women who were not healthy emotionally and in more than one, our relationships became competitions where i had to get out because i was acutely aware of my addiction: Everything About Them Allowed Me To Ignore Myself. if i stayed with them in their states of distraction and huge self-unawareness i was dead; i wouldn’t work on me and i would allow the rage at them (me) to foment. but i had only an on/off switch; no dimmer. i didn’t want to be dead. The Work was showing me there was so much more to life, so i created drama that let us hate each other and end it.
AA has its mottoes:
- One Day at a Time
- Live and Let Live
- Let Go and Let God
- Easy Does It
my own subgroup, CA, has sentiments very similar to those that are required for awareness of my addiction. my mottoes are:
- Continue To Do What You Always Do and You Will Absolutely Always Get What You Have Always Gotten
- You Get What You Give
- You Do, And It Is Done
- Change And You Will Change; and two personal favorites of mine based on the brilliance of two men my parents knew:
- “You’re Not Mad at What You’re Mad At” -Father John J. O’Connor; and
- “You Don’t Have to Get Out of The Trouble You Don’t Get Into.” -Howard Clother (my dad’s boss)
the recipe for success requires daily, no: hourly, no: constant awareness which will eventually lead to new neural pathways in your mind (that’s another blog post altogether) of feeling your body assess, notice and react to something. if it’s quiet: ENJOY it. really enjoy it. just one small opening of self-awareness coupled with turning left instead of right; or calling later away instead of right away; or saying yes instead of no… leaving 10 minutes early instead of later… repeat. these small things can create a whole new way of living.
“there is nothing like the relief of changing your course on something because you’ve admitted you’ve bitten off more than you can chew. you can always change course: delay, think on it, let it settle and come to you when it’s ready. forcing anything never works: you end up exhausted and what you’ve forced is distorted.”