Addiction, Brokenness, Control, Faith/Spirituality, Relationships

No more games

I am finally ready to admit it out loud: we are not a game playing family. There. It’s out there. For years we have tried to be game players. When my kids were younger we really tried to make this a fun family activity, even though we knew from the get-go that it would ultimately end in crying and blaming and possibly throwing of tiny little game pieces- and that was just from the parents! 😜 As a whole, none of us Get any enjoyment fromplaying board games. For a few years we humored the grandparents and played games like Uno or Kings in the Corner, but even that has died out recently. I myself don’t really hate cards, but you can only play so many games of solitaire. You really need more than one person to participate for any other type of game to be successful.

So, it’s official. We don’t like games. But I have to tell you that despite my disdain for games, I find myself inadvertently participating in certain games without even realizing I am playing. Usually it is happens when I disagree with someone else’s behavior or ideas or choices. Instead of letting them figure things out for themselves, I roll the dice when I stick my nose in their business and try to control or change the outcome. And even though I claim to be a “non-gamer”, I try to impose my will on them and force them to play my game by my rules. This is received with a resistance that is similar to what happens when I have tried to make my kids play board games when they’d rather be doing anything else.

Then, and this is where the real danger comes in, there are the games I get sucked into playing by those who love to play certain kinds of games.When someone wants to argue with me or provoke me and get a reaction out of me, I often find myself playing with them, even after I have declared myself to be game-free. Here’s what it looks like: Someone tries to engage me in something that really has nothing to do with me. Or they try to provoke me and get a reaction out of me or prove that I am wrong about something. I tell them I don’t want to argue about it, but continue to engage, discuss it or defend myself.

When I do this it’s like telling someone I don’t want to play catch. They ignore me and throw me the ball anyway. I catch it, throw it back, and repeat that I don’t want to play their game. This continues over and over until I realize, I am playing. The only way to let them know I am not playing is to let the ball roll past me the next time they throw it. Just like you can’t play tug-o-war unless you both people pick up the rope, you can’t have an argument unless more than one person is actively engaged in it. If I refuse to play, the game is over quickly.

Obviously, this doesn’t mean you never have reasonable conversations or disagreements with people. That’s part of life. I am talking about the times where it is truly not even about you or someone is acting selfish, hateful, irrational, angry, resentful, stubborn, arrogant or affected by substances that might make a mature discussion impossible. You can choose not to play. You can detach with love, separating yourself emotionally and spiritually from the other person. You don’t have to own their emotions or take responsibility for the fact that they have them (even if they insist you are the cause). And most importantly, you don’t have to “win.” Because you can’t.

A helpful response that I have heard suggested is to pleasantly say, “you may be right”, and walk away. That doesn’t mean they are right or that you think they are, but it acknowledges that the feelings and thoughts they are having are real for them. It gives them dignity, and often, that is all they were looking for in the first place. I have also heard it said that “most people don’t necessarily want to have their own way, they just want to have their own way considered.”

You have mostly likely heard the words of the Serenity Prayer:

God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference. In this case, the “things” we cannot change are other people and how they think or feel. The “thing” we can change is ourselves and whether or not we get involved in the unhealthy games that others try to rope us in to playing.

God, today, give us the courage to focus on ourselves and make the choice to not catch that ball or pick up that rope.


Addiction, Brokenness, Faith/Spirituality, Relationships

“Goodwill Ranting”

Let’s talk about our feelings. Or, at least my feelings. I really am not good at identifying feelings. I have been through hours of therapy over the years and one of the biggest take-aways has been that I am terrible at addressing, accepting, identifying, acknowledging and sharing my feelings. I am really good at expressing my thoughts and opinions, but apparently, those aren’t the same thing. I am not lying when I tell you that I actually have a list I printed off a website (something like “Feelings for Dummies”) so I could peruse a list of feelings and check them off if I was experiencing them. Like Multiple Choice. So, now that I have laid the foundation for my entry today, let us continue…

Warning: this blog may be a bit “all over the place”, but that seems appropriate since we are talking about Feelings. Let me start by telling you about some of my history of not feeling or at least feeling emotions that are mis-labeled.

I remember having a conversation with my husband years ago about how angry I was at some friends. I was fired up and indignant about being left out of information I felt everyone else knew but me. I was ready to just move on and do life without any friends at all. Who needs em’!? My husband listened patiently for a bit and then said something like,” is it possible that your feelings are just hurt and that makes you sad?” And just like that, I burst into tears. He was right, I was sad and wounded. Anger just felt like a powerful way to express myself. Those other kinds of emotions feel vulnerable and that is extremely hard for me.

Next: When I had Leukemia and didn’t’ know it yet, there were several symptoms that were unexplainable. No one, including me, could put a finger on anything that might lead to a diagnosis or solution. I was tormented with possible scenarios. I was aware of myself enough to know that life had thrown our family some pretty big curve balls over the past couple of years and that I was barely coping with them. One symptom of my stress was that I didn’t feel anything at all. No highs. No lows. No joy, anger, relief, sadness, fear. It was all the same: numbness. I began to believe that maybe the permanent lump in my throat was a cluster of emotions that were “stuck” in me. That my many other symptoms were my bodies way of cluing me in that I had some junk that needed to be brought to the surface. I’d stuffed it down so long, it was logical to me that it would start manifesting itself physically. Unfortunately, it was actually Leukemia, but the other conclusion still makes sense to me.

Though I am getting better at identifying my emotions, mostly due to 12 Step recovery principles, I still struggle identifying, dealing with and accepting my emotions. I was reminded of this in full color when I was in California helping my college student get settled. More specifically, I was kicked in the teeth with the realization that I had been stuffing some significant feelings about him being 21, not needing me, living in an apartment and probably (and hopefully) never living at home again. And here’s the main problem with not dealing with your emotions as they come; they tend to sneak up and surprise you when you are not expecting them. Something cracks the dam and they come gushing out sideways in the middle of Goodwill over a $9.00 lamp and a $3.00 picture frame. You act like a lunatic because you chose to “deal with it later” when you felt that sadness and fear and concern come on you during the summer. But today is the “later” and you have dozens of emotions that are spinning in you like a tornado. And the damage is the same; random and powerful.

While I was in California, when circumstances were threatening to overwhelm me, a wise friend said “sometimes you just have to do your job. You can set your emotions on the shelf for a bit. They can come out later for a visit. But they can’t visit right now.” That was a very helpful perspective that got me through the next few hours of crucial decisions I had to make. But as I thought more about it, I said to her, “the problem for me is that I tend to forget to invite them to come for a visit so they just pop in and surprise me when I least expect it!” Like, in the middle of Goodwill, for pete’s sake.

As I sat to write this morning I prayed and asked God what exactly He wanted me to say. I was floundering a bit between a few struggles I have been having that I wanted to get out of my head. And, as usual, He showed me. I was leaning towards writing about this “Feelings” crap, but wasn’t convinced that’s what He had in mind. I turned to the reading for this date in my Recovery book and I started to cry. Here is what one of the paragraphs said:

“…I have learned that feelings aren’t shortcomings. The true nature of my problem was my stubborn refusal to acknowledge feelings, to accept them, and to let them go. I have very little power over what feelings arise, but what I chaos to do about them is my responsibility. Today I can accept my feelings, share about them with others, recognize that they are feelings, not facts, and then let them go.”

God gave me feelings and the ability, with His help, to handle each of them. Sequestering them on a shelf or shoving them deep down in my soul only leaves me susceptible to surprise visits. It’s ever so much easier to deal with my feelings one at a time. Maybe you struggle with this too. Let me know if you need my list of emotions for dummies and join me in doing the work of identifying, accepting and letting go of your feelings before they do what mine did last week. Trust me, it’s not pretty.

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