Monday, 5 October 2015

Round 3, Day 19: Listening to you, listening to me.

Well, I have written before about listening, but if you write you may find that the same themes come back over and over, and this is a big one for me. This week I have been thinking a lot about two kinds of listening that I guess complement each other: listening to others, and listening to myself.

Listening to others is, in one sense, a challenge for me. I resist a lot of recovery wisdom, in part because it's sometimes presented in language that makes things sound more straightforward than makes sense to me. I am both blessed and cursed with seeing many issues from multiple perspectives, and I try not to resolve things too tightly into one perspective as I think it will simply leave out too much, or will stop ringing true for me. But I know that people who have been through major changes know something that can help me, and when they are generous enough to offer their experience, I need to find a way to take that up in a way that's helpful. Not much else to say about that, except I'm trying, and please be patient with me!

On the other hand, over the past few months, before my recent return to being sober, I feel like I lost my ability to listen to myself. Now, some of that isn't all that surprising. I was a bit busier than is good for me with school, just because it all crept up on me (I have decreased some of that now), and then my partner's accident earlier in the summer (he's doing well now) resulted in me not having very much free time for a couple of months. I am used to having a reasonable amount of time to myself, and it's one of the ways I keep myself on track. (I used to suffer severe depressions and now mostly I don't, so keeping myself on track is worth the time and effort it takes. It might sound like a luxury, but it's pretty basic survival for me.)

Anyway. One of the things I think I have lost my way in is my academic work. I don't write a lot about that here, for a whole lot of reasons, but I'm going to talk a little bit about it now because I think it's central to this listening thing.  In many ways, I'm not sure about the academic world. In some ways it's very good--I like my thesis project, and I think it's definitely worth doing. And of course it's a privilege to be doing it at all. I get that. But I don't run into a lot of people who have set up their lives in ways that bring them balance and meaning, and that's been gnawing at me. The other day, I had lunch with two people who are quite senior to me, and who in many ways I admire. But their lives seem rigid, somehow. Maybe that's not it, rigid. Maybe what I want to say is that their lives seem so  compartmentalized, and I don't think I can live like that. I can't spend most of my time doing what needs to be done in the hopes of scraping out a little time to do work that matters to me. Now, maybe I don't have to. But I feel like I need a role model, and I don't have one. Part of the problem may be that the department I am working might not be the best fit for me. But if it isn't, I have to find a place that is, and then make enormous changes, and it's hard to know where to start. I just don't always know how to connect to the sources of meaning that I need to keep connected to in order to keep myself going, and I'm not sure whether that's a personal problem or an institutional problem, or whether it's a matter of me just not fitting where I am. But I wrote about not feeling like I fit anywhere, so it seems a bit rich to think that I am going to be able to feel that in school. And yet, if I can't, I'm not sure I can do what it takes to keep me in it for the long haul. It's not the hard work that I mind (though sometimes I do, of course!) It's more the fear of being swallowed up by the academic machine and not being able to hear what's left of my own voice. That scares me.

I really don't know if that makes sense to anyone. Maybe I sound like I am whinging. But I know that I have some major doubts about what I am doing, and these doubts are not unconnected to the drinking. So I'm trying to look them square in the face and say, "Hello doubt. What's up with you these days?" rather than racing past them in the hopes that they disappear. And I'm not expecting any great answers from myself on this, or at least not yet. I'm just admitting that I have big questions. And they are painful.

On the not drinking front, things have been actually pretty darned easy. My "not drinking" habits were well-established after 16 months sober, and I feel like I have reverted to them with a certain ease. I've felt low, and I've felt altogether just too much, that's for sure. But I haven't felt like drinking. (Well, except once, fleetingly, at a particularly festive recent dinner party, but I was still getting over the flu then and I really didn't want to feel any worse than I already did. Still, since drinking while ill was never a problem when I was drinking, I'm pleased that even that one evening, the temptation was only slight.) No, for me, I am starting to realize that the problem isn't being overcome with craving. Not anymore. The problem is more trying to figure out how to live so that I stay connected to my sources of meaning. If I lose them, and things start to seem pointless, that's when drinking starts to look appealing. As in, if it's all pointless anyway, why not just drink? I don't think it's all pointless. But I do feel like that at times. Working on that is what I need to do, and what I'm writing about.

Thanks for reading, if you made it through all that! It's nice to have some company while I face down these doubts. Wishing you peace, and joy, and maybe even a little fall sunshine.


  1. Yes. It's so much less about the actual drinking after the first few weeks, and so much more about the doing.
    Once I was sober I suddenly realized I was not stuck. I could change my life. That was a startling revelation, as I guess I had resolved myself to just bide my time until I died. Ok, maybe not quite that morbid, but pretty close.

    As my mind and heart cleared I found a rebpnewed enthusiasm for my current job, which really surprised me. And adding yoga teaching to the mix was the nurturing I needed.

    My only advice is decide slowly. I continue to have peaks and valleys of interest in things. But I am learning to let those emotions flow and not act on them.

    I have a family to support. Sometimes responsibility must win. Lol. As much as I would love to stay home and yoga every day, now is not the right time.


    1. Thanks, Anne. The balance between trying to make changes and not making too many too soon is the trick, isn't it? I am at a point in school where I have to make decisions that will affect me for a few years, so I will have to make decisions. Right now, though, I'm just thinking/feeling/living things through, and there's sure a lot of up and down in all that. Anyway, I'm glad you get to do your yoga, even if it's not all day long! Thanks for being here. xo

  2. I lost my ability to listen to myself, to my body and mind. I think I lost it to alcohol. When I am drinking I always think I am so in tune with myself. When I am sober, I see that I am lying to myself.
    make changes on your own terms. On your own time. Give it some thought. Give it time. I am learning to be patient with myself. It is hard.

    1. Yes, I also always think I'm so in tune when I'm drinking. But these last few times I did start to realize I was missing something. Making changes in my own time and on my own terms, that's almost exactly what my partner said when we talked about this, and I think it's great advice. Thanks for the moral support, and good luck with that patience! xo

  3. I wonder, do you have any peers in your academic community with whom you could discuss your current concerns? sometimes putting things into words can help you identify the problem if nothing else... if you are feeling a little stuck that may be something you can address when you are ready. it can be hard to work out why, and how, I agree! that is the million dollar question!

    I read recently that the root of the word 'enthusiasm' is en theos = filled with spirit, or in old-fashioned language, being possessed by a god... finding that enthusiasm can be more a case of channelling one's own true subconscious nature rather than actual, you know, possession. in particular I am pleased to hear that you are not finding it too great a struggle to keep Dionysus at bay! Prim xx

    1. Hello, Prim! Sorry I am slow to respond. I was out of town on a wee vacation!

      i like what you say about ethos. I am trying to listen to what I really do want here, and I see that I may not have always been very good at that. I kind of knew that in some ways, but it runs deeper than I had thought. I do think listening will be the start of it.

      Regarding talking to peers, I wish it would help, but in some ways, that's part of the problem. I can't seem to connect to the reasons people (at school) give for doing what they do, and I think I might be looking for something very different than what they are looking for. I have some ideas, but I won't go on here in a comment.

      Thanks so much for your wise words and support. And yes, the wine part of the wine god is heeling well for now. But I do hope some of the Dionysian madness stays with me! xoxo

  4. Dear Thirsty,
    You are way above me in teaching ability! LOL
    I was only a kindergarten, first and second grade teacher.
    But here's the thing…
    When I was teaching kindergarten I let myself be tales into going to first grade. I had taught kindergarten for 14 years, and had a difficult co-worker.
    I thought I would be happier in another grade.
    My principal was very wise!
    She said, "You need to know where the problem really lies. You will always have difficult co-workers. But if YOU have a problem, you will carry that with you no matter where you go."
    She let me go to first grade, and it awful!
    Now I realize this is my story I am telling. But maybe my principal's words will help you, too!

    1. Kindergarten for 14 years? You must be a saint. And have some great stories.

    2. Hi Wendy. Yes, Anne is right, 14 yrs in Kindergarten sounds amazing. I couldn't get through a day. I'd say be have different abilities, though, not that mine are above yours.

      I think you're right about carrying problems wherever you go. My problem is I really do have to make some decisions about my academic program, and I am not sure what they should be, or even quite why I am here where I am. But I am working on it, and I have some hopes that this is a start. Hugs to you too! xoxo