Coaching and Wellness, faith, God, parenting, self improvement, Sobriety, spirituality, Uncategorized, writing

Want Peace? Stop Defending Yourself and Let Go

How silence, not explanation, was the answer to all my relationship nonsense

Originally published on Medium.

Image for post
@cooljonez @ Unsplash

I got a private message today from the father of a friend of my almost full grown daughter. After a brief “Hello, how are you?” he launched into a full blown expose about the potential reasons my kid wasn’t returning her daughter’s texts and emails. The deductions he came up with for my kid’s silence were quite impressive. If it were a soap opera script, the dialogue could have won an Emmy.

The old Andrea would have freaked out about this person’s discomfort. After all, that Andrea’s only happiness rested on someone’s opinion about me. If someone was happy with me, I was happy. If someone was upset, it was my job… my duty… to make it right so they could feel better. And, better put, so I could feel better. Today my response to such insanity is super simple: silence.

Strong Silence vs. Punishing Silence

I’m not a fan of giving someone the quiet treatment just to be cruel. That kind of act is manipulation at its finest and not kind.

But when someone sets me up for a game I can’t possibly win, I am a fan of the quiet that says what words cannot ever express: “I am not playing this game.”

In a perfect world, having dodged their emotional overhand, the ball ricochets back from the wall and hits them upside the head, forcing them to bellow, “Ouch! That hurt!” followed by a quick, “Golly, gee, maybe I should look at my asinine behavior!”

Unfortunately, we don’t live in a perfect world full of people who put their soul over their ego and give people the benefit of the doubt. We live in a very real world full of very real, hurting, dysfunctional people… people who are not willing to take the time to heal from their past hurts. And that’s a problem.

If we don’t heal our wounds from the past we will bleed all over people who never cut us.

I should know. I used to be that person. It was much easier (and low brow) to blame and shame others than it was to stop, look my actions squarely in the eye, and change. But, as they say in many a 12-step programs, “Grow or Die.” Me? I didn’t want to physically die. The only death I wanted was death of my old behavior to become a better Andrea. So I took the ball in the face a few times.

Okay, a few thousand times.

But I don’t regret a thing.

The Gift of Pain

Pain is no fun. It would be so much easier to drink, drug or deflect. This kind of emotional escape is akin to a ball hitting a catcher’s mask. The catcher might get klunked on occasion. They might get shook up. But it doesn’t hurt them. They don’t truly change from the experience. They just take off their mask and go home.

But what if the mask wasn’t there? What if, without thinking of the consequences, the masked man, “Protection be gone! I’d rather chew gum and look at my phone?” Then what?

We all know the answer. They’d get socked in the face. Hard. That would suuuuck. It would require potential surgery and loads of therapy and recovery, but eventually, if they were lucky, they would not go blind from the injury. They would heal and they wouldn’t make the same mistake again.

Now I’m no masochist, but sometimes we need a little hurt as a wake up call to ask the right questions and transform. I know I did, especially when it came to raising kids, marriage and friendship. After at first not even being aware of my transgressions, I eventually caught on and started asking myself, “Hey, is my behavior helping or hurting a relationship?”

When I learned to ask the right questions my life shifted. The fact finding process of truly seeing my part was not unlike being hit in the face by a ball. Except for one difference: I wasn’t alone. I had begun to bring God into the batting cage with me. I had someone reminding me when to duck, when to dodge and when to sit still.

“But what about other people’s part?” you might ask. The answer, with all due respect, none of our business. If we want peace we must stay in our own lane. (Or batting cage as this analogy calls for.) I didn’t get sober five years ago to take the bait from people anymore.

I’ve done the hard work to figure out what my defects are. If someone else doesn’t want to grow, and would rather concoct a story and project their insecurities on me, that’s on them. But I’m not losing sleep over the drama any longer.

Here are just a few tips I’ve learned when it comes to engaging with drama queens and stop defending myself.

5 Ways to Stop Defending Yourself and Be Free of Insanity

  1. Nature of the Friendship: I have learned to ask myself, “Is this person a friend or an acquaintance?” If they are just an acquaintance, I don’t explain. I don’t engage. I stay silent. If they are a true friend who maybe crossed a line, I either let it go or, if it’s really really bugging me, I will make an appointment to talk to them. But… and this is a big “but”, if I can’t talk to them without being mad, I wait.
  2. No Texts: I don’t engage in long, spirited texts anymore. It’s too easy to have my words misunderstood. I, too, can’t always read the emotional nuances behind other’s words. It’s a set-up for more anger and hurt.
  3. Detach With Love: When I remember that people who cause drama are often just hurt people, I’m able to disengage with love instead of anger. I can pray for them because they, like me, are sometimes spiritually sick.
  4. Forgive: This has been, and still proves to be, the hardest act for me. But it’s a fact that everyone makes mistakes. If I want to be forgiven for my past mistakes, I must remember that one wave does not define the whole ocean. I can forgive someone for dumping on me and let go.
  5. Let Go: When I remember I’m not King of the Universe, I can let stuff go. When I think everything has to go my way, and people need to behave in a certain way for me to function, I am miserable.
  6. Trust God: When I trust God, it doesn’t matter what anyone thinks, says or writes. I can stay calm. On the flipside, if I have forgotten to meditate or pray that day, I take everything personally.

God’s Doesn’t Explain Himself (or Herself) so Why Should I?

The truth is that I’m here to God’s work, not explain myself. The quicker I get out of someone else’s way, the quicker they can potentially look at their behavior and have a spiritual awakening also. (It’s been my experience that 99 times out of 100 they ain’t gonna be lookin’ to change themselves. But I changed, and that’s good enough.)

Image for post
Denise Jones @cooljonez @ Unsplash

When people get crazy on me, I remember that I owe them nothing. Happiness is an inside job.

I love the picture above, because the street is not lined with defensive statements. It’s not littered with “If only you would stop talking” notices. It’s just quiet… a path leading toward some new and exciting destination.

If you’re ready to go some place new, far away from the old mindset that tells you to fight insane people, places and things, I encourage you to keep your ego in check and let go. I encourage you, when tempted to retaliate, to sit in silence and ask God what he would have you do.

These days life is simpler and peace flows where negativity and hurt used to live. And while I don’t live in Serenityville all the time, I’m happy to say it’s a solid summer home for me. As long as I keep trusting God I’ll be there year round soon enough.

And, with practice, you can be, too.

About Me

Image for post

I’m a published TV, blog, magazine and book writer who also coaches moms and grandmoms to write books rooted in wisdom, spirituality and humor.

CONTACT ME

Find out more at Andrea Frazer Writes or at Facebook. Email me at Andrea@AndreaFrazerWrites.com

DON’T MISS A NEWSLETTER!

You can sign up for my email list here where I’ll send you a newsletter all about book writing every Wednesday. Happy Hump Day indeed!

Coaching and Wellness, faith, God, humor, sobriety

I Gave Up Coffee and I Didn’t Die

The hot, steamy, spiritual truth on why pulled the plug on my coffee maker

Originally published on Medium.

Image for post
Mike Kenneally@asthetik @ Unsplash

I have been an avid coffee drinker since I’ve been 16. I’m now 50. Even my special ed math kids can come to the approximate conclusion that I’ve been drinking coffee for 34 years. A more traditional learner such as yourself could equally surmise I’ve been drinking it for more than 50% of my life.

Just scroll through the internet and you’ll find a ton of writers citing case studies on why coffee is great for you. Benefits include everything from anti-oxidants to pre-work out boosts and extra go juice for late night work and study sessions. Plus there’s the whole “focus” and “way to jumpstart your morning” deal. Bottom line: this wonder drug has no limits!

But here’s the problem with this no limit stimulant: humans have limits, and I’m one of them.

Why Give Up Coffee After 30 years?

They say that as you get older you get wiser. I am far from being a saint, but it’s a fact that I’ve gotten much closer to my true self these past few years. Wisdom and faith were hard earned. I searched and found. And along those lines of finding, it became all too apparent that although I love the taste of coffee, I found that my authentic soul didn’t really need all those extra stimulants via my delicious expresso.

Maybe other people can handle it better than I can, but I had to wave the white flag. After drinking up to four cups/day (very strong cups, I might add) I still lacked the energy I needed to get through the day. It was as if I needed a cup of coffee to boost me awake after the inevitable let down of the last cup of coffee.

Then there was the fact that I caught myself thinking about it all the time. “When was my next coffee break?”… “Happy about that new client? Drink coffee!” … “Sad about not getting that new client after all? Drink coffee!” … “Need something to get you through the online zoom day teaching? Drink coffee!”

As a sober alcoholic, I know that java isn’t such a big deal compared to drinking a bottle of two buck chuck per day, but it still caused its fair share of problems:

Problems from Drinking Coffee

  • Last minute bathroom runs: Yes, coffee made me do my business in the morning, but it would also sneak up on me when I was in traffic. Or taking a jog around the block. Or on a train downtown during the Women’s March when I had to exit my group of gals to beg a Kaiser facility to let me use the girls’ room.
  • Crankiness: I am high strung to begin with. Adding caffeine into my day in large quantities was like revving the motor on my inner bitch button. I don’t want to be on edge, but coffee took away the space between “I’m going to give that person a piece of my mind” and “Hmmm… maybe telling your family member the best way to live their life when it’s none of my business is not such a hot idea.”
  • Bad breath: My dog has breath that could start a car, but on coffee I could start a semi truck. Herbal tea is much kinder to my husband when he wants to sneak a last minute kiss on his way out to work, and while I now drink 8 cups of that instead of a decaf/regular coffee combo, at least I’m not filling up my stomach with more acid than a Costco battery pack.
  • Dependency: After giving up wine almost 5 years ago, I just don’t covet the idea of having to have something to get going in the morning. Like Merlot, coffee worked until it didn’t. When it became more of a “have to” instead of a “want to” I had to kick it to the curb.

Where Have You Bean All My Life? Close By, Baby

Image for post
Nathan Dumlao@nate_dumlao @ Unsplash

So I’m not gonna lie — giving up coffee has been one of the difficult things I have ever done. I love the smell. I love the taste. I love the feeling of a kiln fired mug in my hands and a thick dark coffee waiting inside. So many of my happiest childhood memories are traced back to my parents drinking coffee and laughing with good friends in the kitchen… studying at Nordstroms with girlfriends at UC San Diego where, as broke college kids, we could get unlimited refills of Joe for 25cents.

Coffee to me is what smoking is for others. It’s sexy. It’s late nights at dim lit diners after seeing an amazing piece of theater. It’s writing scripts at the counters of old delis and vintage pie shops. It’s long distance road trips. It’s sitting around the campfire and swapping ghost stories. It’s waking up on Christmas morning and that lovely anticipation of opening gifts while eating a slice of last night’s pumpkin pie. It’s a handsome man taking me to a bistro and sharing a brownie with me over an Americano just so we don’t have to say goodbye.

Just typing that out is making me yearn for it. But… like with wine… it started becoming an idol. Like the Kenney Chesney song, “One was one too many… one more was never enough.” A better way to put it is like this:

When I controlled coffee, I couldn’t enjoy it. And when I enjoyed it, I couldn’t control it.

Some of you might say, “Oh, for God sake, lighten up, Andrea. You already don’t drink. Give yourself a vice and enjoy your life!”

And friends, that’s what I told myself for years. And while I found my relationship with it starting to fade, I still found I enjoyed it a hell of a lot more than anything else out there. And that kind of sucks. For me, that looked like building my life around coffee and not the other way around. Ex: I didn’t get a kick out of parties that didn’t have coffee the way I like it. (Yes, dumb, but true.) I wouldn’t go to certain restaurants that didn’t serve it the way I liked it. (Super dark with rich cream.) Even my own coffee, unless it was thick enough to start a car, it wasn’t worth drinking, and then I’d be cranky.

I once switched to decaf for a year, but that only left me drinking 6 cups of thick decaf each day which was the same as one cup of regular coffee anyway + dry skin to boot. #addict

This kind of mental back flips toward the end over something I used to enjoy so much had end. I felt in my gut — where the God of my understanding lives — that it was time to release this ridiculous obsession to make room for new pleasures in my life.

Pleasures that didn’t cause me stinky breath, emergency pit stops and gobs of money at every Starbucks in town.

Immediately after that last cup I felt amazing.

Kidding.

I was depressed. For about two weeks. I still am, mildly.

Giving up the coffee was akin to giving up a toxic boyfriend who once was so delightful. Sure, I’d miss its company, but it no longer served me. It had to go.

The Spiritual Side of Less Caffeine

There are some perks (no pun intended) to giving up the mud. In slowing down, thanks to lack of caffeine, I started having insights that I never would have had thanks to the dopamine high I was so used to experiencing. The main one was that, despite many years of work on myself, there is a piece of me that is consistently restless, irritable and discontent. Oh, sure, it doesn’t drive the bus like it used to, but it’s ready to take the wheel at any time. Giving up coffee, and allowing God into these moments of discomfort, has forced me to look at things I haven’t wanted to for a long time.

I am not into self-deprivation (though it might appear to that living without alcohol and coffee now) but there is a place for stopping distractions… to letting our souls fill with the God of our understanding instead of always turning for the next fix.

Do I think I will give up coffee forever? I don’t know. But I do know this: I’m going through a very holy period of my life right now. I have never seen so much change. It’s like living in Upside Down Land at times. There is simply not enough coffee to make me feel like it’s all going to right itself back again. But… and here’s the big BUT… I’ve had an epiphany since giving up the brown juice:

Life before coffee was never ideal. It was just life, like cream in my java, a mixture of good and bad mixed together. I saw it through a lense of steam…a projection of what I wanted it to be rather than what it really was.

Letting go of my favorite escape is helping me to get my daily fixes with God as I know Him. It’s causing me to sit in my discomfort and realize I’m not going to die.

Priscilla Du Preez@priscilladupreez

A New Tradition — Holidays Sans Cafe’!

Tonight I sat at my kitchen table with my Covid bubble. This includes my friend, her two littles, her sister and her family and, of course, my family. While my teens played Among Us with a few friends socially distanced outside, the adults planned our Thanksgiving dinner.

My chosen family is El Salvadorian, and I was delighted to hear that this comes with new recipes I have yet to try, plus I won’t be making the turkey! (Let’s get real… my husband won’t be making it. I rarely cook.) Instead, mis amigos will bring the bird, complete with soft bread and tomato sauce.

As for the after dinner extravaganza, I might not get coffee with the Cheesecake my friend is bringing for dessert, but I’ll have a delicious cup of decaf Stash Chai Spice. And, remembering that experiences trump idols every time, I’ll be sure to say an extra prayer of gratitude that I followed my gut to unplug my coffee pot… and my over caffeinated brain… to settle down and appreciate the new pleasures this season has to bring.

Until next time —

About Me

Image for post
Image for post

I’m a published TV, blog, magazine and book writer who also coaches moms and grandmoms to write books rooted in wisdom, spirituality and humor.

CONTACT ME

Find out more at Andrea Frazer Writes or at Facebook. Email me at Andrea@AndreaFrazerWrites.com

DON’T MISS A NEWSLETTER!

You can sign up for my email list here where I’ll send you a newsletter all about book writing every Wednesday. Happy Hump Day indeed!

faith, God, self improvement, Sobriety, spirituality

10 Reasons a Spiritual Solution is Better Than Zoloft

Confessions from an ex pill popper

Originally published on Medium.

For years before I got sober, I was on a variety of anti-depressants for all of my outside issues. My marriage was in the toilet. My son had a condition I couldn’t cure. I was struggling with balancing my writing with my domestic responsibilities and frankly, I was just having a hard time transitioning from my childhood to the intense demands of adulting.

Zoloft calmed me down. After all, my issues were in my tissues, and I hit the genetic lottery in many ways. My family on both sides were kind, loving, funny and smart people. Many of them also struggled with mental health.

If my relatives came with a Tarot card reading, you’d say I came from a line of Bi-polar with Neurosis and Addiction Rising.

I don’t blame my parents for my emotional disposition. They loved me well and gave me an amazing childhood complete with private education, art lessons and lots of time in a beautiful home to work on my writing. In fact, one of my main regrets for a long time was that I was not able to give my own kids the life I had growing up. I felt I had somehow failed because we weren’t celebrating at Jerry’s Deli once/week with Corn Beef sandwiches and black and white cookies. Life wasn’t a constant loop of performing arts and vacations back east or cruises. I wasn’t able to take my daughter to the mall every time she needed a new pair of shorts. Thrift stores became our go-to and “making due” was our motto.

Yet despite my longings to give them more (and some occasional bouts of anger) my kids had a great life.

Looking back over my mothering now, I see that it wasn’t the inability to financially provide for my kids that I regret most. It was not having the tools to navigate the pressures that come with parenting. Enter Zoloft.

freestocks@freestocks @ Unsplash

Zoloft took the edge off of a very confusing time of my life and allowed my very spinning and creative brain to CALM. DOWN.

It allowed me to focus just a bit more and, like a grace note in a sheet of music, provided just enough pause for me to think rationally about how I wanted to handle my failing marriage and special needs parenting.

But here’s the problem:

Zoloft itself didn’t fix my situation. Only a spiritual solution did. It’s been five years now since I’ve been off the psyche meds and, while life hasn’t been perfect, I have never looked back.

Benjamin Voros@vorosbenisopUnsplash

NOTE: Before anyone reaches through the internet and wants to throttle for me for saying that pills aren’t a reasonable way to cure depression and anxiety, you can hold off. I am not a doctor. I am simply telling you what worked for me. Take what you like and leave the rest.

10 Items from my My Spiritual Tool Kit

Here are ten nuggets of wisdom that have transformed my life. I use them still every single day and, while life isn’t always easy (especially the last two months) I know beyond a shadow of a doubt that the God of my understanding is with me. I don’t need to dull the pain anymore with alcohol or Zoloft. I simply need to practice some very simple principals, face what isn’t working, and give it God. These simple steps have transformed my life, and they can transform yours (whether or not you choose to be on medication or not!)

12Gabrielle Henderson@gabriellefaithhendersonUnsplash
  1. Gratitude: Every day I write a list of five things I’m grateful for. Staying grateful even in troubling times does not take the difficulties away, but it makes them bearable. I have done them so consistently, in fact, that now my mind automatically goes to grateful even when I’m less than enthusiastic about my Monday morning routine. Ex: Grateful for a working computer! A cup of hot tea on a desk my husband made me! My beautiful brick wall pictures of my kids smiling down at me! Netflix playing a cozy cafe’ scene in the background! My ridiculous camel lamp lighting up my office, reminding me to ‘Get over the humps with God’! Yup, gratitude lists have re-set my negative thinking to positive thinking and it’s made all the difference.
  2. 12-Step Programs: I go to 4 12-step programs a week. I have a sponsee. I take calls daily. I reach out to others who are struggling. I would say I spend, on average, 10 hours/week dedicated to this practice. And while, yes, that’s a lot of time, I also used to spend a lot of time being depressed, anxious and out of control with my emotions. Being an active member of 12 step groups allows me to be connected to a community. To not feel alone. And most importantly, to be reminded that God, not me, is in charge. This reliance on a power greater than myself has kept me out of my head and into action where the solution lives. This leads me to my next point:
  3. Service: In helping others every day, I get out of self. Unlike in my past where I’d help to subconsciously be liked, or to feel worthy, I now do it because it’s what I feel God would have me do to help others heal as I was able to do. I get to pay back what another so kindly paid forward to me. (Thank you, Violet!) Seeing someone else transform their mindset or simply get temporary comfort is a mental boost I never got from Zoloft.
  4. Music: I’m not going to lie. I play Christmas jazz all year long. The sounds of the bells and the happy voices put me in a cozy mood that transcends any negativity in the world. It also sets a joyful tone in my home. Sure, my teenagers roll their eyes when I lip sync “All I Want for Christmas Is You” with my wooden spoon microphone, complete with 50-year-old bootie shakes #okBoomer, but I know they are grateful for my present day levity instead of the past heaviness. I also know for a fact that God has wired me to be happy, joyous and free, but it’s so easy for me to forget with the myriad of tasks on my to-do list. Music is my soul’s gentle reminder that it’s okay to feel happy even when I’d rather get back under the covers and sleep.
  5. No Coffee: I know! I know! This one is crazy. But in giving up caffeine I’ve found I have more patience for my family, friends and co-workers. Every time I think “Man, I could use a cup of Joe” I automatically picture myself pouring out this bad breath juice, saying, “God, I’m emptying my self-will. Fill me with your spirit today.” And I swear, it works. (Though I won’t lie. I miss the taste like crazy. And no, I won’t do decaf. Too many chemicals. Like alcohol, coffee’s treat had become my prison with last minute bathroom trips and an overly stimulated nervous system. Like Marie Kondo, I thanked it for it’s service and ushered a host of delicious teas into my kitchen instead.)
  6. My Will Vs. God’s Will: My default mode is “Control Freak.” In remembering each day, and sometimes on a minute by minute basis, that God is in charge, I have so much more peace. It also helps me make better decisions. When I’m in God’s will, there is serenity. When I’m in my will, I often find myself hurting the people around me in a mad attempt to be right or get my way. I find myself clinging to ridiculous beliefs like, “If only my kid would fold the towels exactly this way I’d feel better about the linen closet and I wouldn’t be angry.” Um, how about instead I look at what is going right instead of what is going wrong? I have a kid who is home, during Covid, folding 1970’s towels. I’m pretty sure the only thing “wrong” in choosing my will instead of God’s is that I make towels and rigidity more important than the loving, easy going spirit of God’s will.
  7. Inside vs. Outside Based: As an A+ Catholic student, who was far too tall to attract the popular boys and not good enough athletically to make any sports team, I found that my grades were a super big validation for me. Unfortunately, it was very outcome based. It didn’t matter if I was feeling overwhelmed or exhausted, as long as I got that “A” all was right in my world. Ummm… “my” world as opposed to “the whole big world”… a world I was ill prepared for with this thinking. My tenacity with grades might have landed me in top universities, as well as landed me as a TV writer when the competition was super fierce, but it wasn’t sustainable. I could not “study” my way into getting people to like my scripts once I was hired. I couldn’t “A+B+C” my way into getting my kids to remember to take the trash out. I couldn’t “1+ 2 = 3” my way into getting my husband to want to spend $5k on getting our house painted. Enter frustration. And yes, Zoloft took the edge off this anger. But in getting to the bottom of the anger, and surrendering to the fact that God loves me… and I don’t have to control everything to be happy… the anger faded. Takeway: When I remember that my insides are more important than the outcomes, I feel peace.
  8. Prayer: Keeping constant contact with something greater than me reminds me that I am never alone. Instead of getting into a “My Will” vs. “God’s Will” battle, I can just choose God’s way first. I can pray something as simple as “Thy will be done.” In doing so, I can surrender to whatever is happening in my life as happening on purpose for a reason. I don’t have to agree with something, but I can get into acceptance. And ah… the Land of Acceptance. It’s a destination that I can keep in my heart and soul twenty four hours a day and doesn’t cost a thing. (Note: Not being in acceptance costs plenty in terms of lack of sleep, fractured relationships and anger.)
  9. Meditation: You’ll be sick of hearing this, but meditation has quieted my brain in a profound way. If prayer is talking to God, meditation is listening. Every morning I take just 10 minutes and get still. In doing so, like in #7, I’m offering up my insides to God to take care of my outsides. It helps me be less outcome based and more present. It reminds me that rest and beauty and nurturing is just as important as my pay check. And when I slow down, I am more aware of beautiful synchronicities and signs that remind me I am on the right path.
  10. Keeping it Light: When I think I’m in charge of the universe, anger and frustration enter. When I remember that life is one giant game to grow my soul, I can laugh at misfortunes. Ex: Yesterday my car broke down. Twice. Once on the way home from my overnight stay at the beach (which was supposed to be my spiritual retreat for myself) and once at the Whole Foods parking lot with a car full of groceries and beer that this alcoholic was delivering to my 90 year old mama. I could have gotten furious, but I remembered to say, “Thy will be done” and just called a tow truck. If I had not been in fit spiritual condition I’d have been calling my husband in a spitfire rage of pissiness, inwardly cursing him for not showing up quickly enough. I’d have stayed in my victim story. Instead, I simply walked back in Whole Foods, asked for a cup of hot water, and drank some herbal Chai while waiting for the driver who, miraculously, appeared within 20 minutes. This brings me right back to #1: Gratitude.

When I Surrendered My Outsides to a God of my understanding, I didn’t need Zoloft for My Insides anymore.

Arno Smit@_entreprenerd

I know many of you out there are suffering. Perhaps my reasons for suffering are different than your reasons. And I can’t pretend that doing one thing on my list, or all of them, will “cure” you right away. But I can promise you this: There is a greater being out there that loves you. And if you can take the time to tap into that being, in whatever form works for you, your burden will lighten.

You will find freedom.

And most importantly, you will find peace.

Today I wish you joy, hope and love. Whether you are on meds or not, I hope you will find time to get outside and see the beauty of a flower. Take a strong sniff of the sea. If your house is a mess, stop focusing on the dishes in the sink and find one small corner of your home where you can sip some tea and get into gratitude for what is working instead of what isn’t.

There is always something to be grateful for.

There is always something to hope for.

I pray that in a world that can often feel dark and despairing, that, as my 12-Step Program promises, you ask God to “Grant you the serenity to accept what you cannot cannot change, the courage to change what you can, and the wisdom to know the difference.” In doing so, with the God of your understanding residing within you, your outsides might not change over night, but inside you will transform to the radiant person you were meant to be all along. And your life will never be the same.

Why not start today?

Until tomorrow,

Andrea

About Me

I’m a published TV, blog, magazine and book writer who also coaches moms and grandmoms to write books rooted in wisdom, spirituality and humor. Find out more at Andrea Frazer Writes or at Facebook. Come back Monday — Friday where I’ll post about spirituality, writing and sobriety. And sometimes tacos. Because Tacos make everything better. Always.

DON’T MISS A NEWSLETTER!

You can sign up for my email list here where I’ll send you a newsletter all about book writing every Wednesday. Happy Hump Day indeed!

faith, sobriety, spirituality, writing

Want An Amazing Life? There’s Only One Thing to Do: Ask the Right Questions

So yes, tonight is Election Day. It’s also the day I decided to move ahead with my blogging again. I’m sick and tired of feeling sick and tired. So I’m back.

Emily Morter@emilymorter @ Unsplash

I woke up yesterday morning like I’ve woken up the past 60 days: tired, exhausted, and hell bent on starting my day again.

I did my Morning Pages. (Thanks, Julia Cameron! You’ve yet to let me down.)

I meditated for ten minutes with my husband.

I cleaned out my wreck of an office the best I could and took my sorry ass for a walk.

I wanted to feel joy and be in the moment, but all I could think about was the horrible feeling of dread I had in my stomach for everything that conspired against me like an epic shot of “Screw You” juice.

The Past 2 Months of Hell

In addition to the “normal” life of Covid, elections were looming.

I’ve had a LOT of personal challenges in my immediate family and my extended family.

I had unexpected stitches followed by surgery on my hand. (Um, don’t ever push your hand down as hard as you can on a trash can that is full of broken glass.)

My husband had mouth surgery last week. Add in a full time job teaching special ed as well as my consulting job coaching women to write books, and I was exhausted.

Normally a person of deep gratitude, I felt the weight of unwanted burdens piling up to the point where I was having a hard time concentrating. I was cranky with my family. I was angry at the dog. Despite my best efforts to “let go” and do the next indicated step — as my 12 step program so magnificently reminds me on a daily basis — I felt stuck.

The Power of Contrary Action

Dmitry Schemelev@enioku @Unsplash

In an attempt to avoid self-pity, I took the opposite action of sitting in my house ruminating like an old record player stuck on a bad song and went for a walk. But when the beauty of the Fall leaves, a Labrador puppy, a waving/smiley baby and the smell of baking bread didn’t unhinge my negative mind, I did the only thing I could think of. In true Anne Lamott fashion, I muttered under my breath the most holy of holy prayers that one does when they are sinking in a quagmire of despair and unshakeable grief: “Help.”

And that’s when a tiny, but strong voice, came bubbling up. “Call your sponsor,” it told me.

So I did.

And what she said absolutely changed my life. I told her everything. How I couldn’t see the sun no matter how hard I tried. How I was in so much grief over my childhood home being sold. How I was terribly worried about one of my children’s life path and how if I heard my husband click his fork against his molar ONE. MORE. TIME. I would slide across the table Bruce Lee style and strangle him with the Italian cloth napkin. I mean, that would really put a bust on our lovely Italian meal out and then I’d be stuck with the bill.

“Why is all this stuff happening to me?” I lamented. “I pray. I meditate. I go to meetings. I am of service to people. I admit when I’m wrong. Why can’t I feel better?”

“You’re asking the wrong questions,” she told me.

“What do you mean?” I shot back, dumbfounded. I realized, with some irony, that that was yet another question, but I shut my mouth and let her continue.

“When you do things to feel better, you are in self-will. When you do things to be better, you are in God’s will.”

I had to admit she got me on that one, but I wasn’t ready to give in yet. I was paralyzed in a trance of Self-Righteous indignation with Self Pity rising. This state of mind didn’t feel amazing, but it was like a toxic ex-boyfriend from 1998… I knew he was gay, but I wasn’t quite ready to let go. (“Couldn’t I just have one more night of musical theater with him before we went our separate ways?” I used to ask myself. Of course, in the context of my sponsor’s statement, perhaps if I had asked a better question I would have saved myself endless mornings of remorse. But that was before I was sober. And I didn’t give up booze to repeat stupid patterns over and over, so I continued listening.)

“Instead of asking ‘Why are these things happening?’” she gently stated, “You need to be asking ‘What is this here to teach me?’ ”

Okay, she had me there. And as much as I didn’t want to admit it, all my circumstances, ALL of them, came down to the one character defect that gets me every time: control.

Yes, on the surface, my life felt like a Shit Show Circus. But in not trusting God, I was the only one to blame for constantly buying the tickets.

Image courtesy of Cyrus Crossan@cys_escapes @ Unsplash

She continued, “When you insist that your way is the right way, Andrea, you are not leaving room for God to act. And worse than that, you are playing the victim so that you don’t have to change.”

“Ouch!” my ego shrieked.

“#TRUTH” my spirit leapt, not unlike a tight rope walker at the Greatest Show On Earth — my very own life.

Her final question went straight into the center of my being, “What if, from this point on, you never tried to control anybody ever again? What would that do to your relationships?”

I didn’t say anything. How could I? She was right. But I can tell you how I felt — like I was going to throw up.

“Are you willing to never again blame anyone else for what is happening to you? Are you willing instead to look at your life like a giant game and see what it can teach your soul?” she asked.

“I guess,” I said, half-heartedly. I felt destroyed — like my gut had taken a giant hit. Which, of course, it did. I mean, if I couldn’t blame anyone, then it was all up to me. And if was all up to me, then I was really doomed to fail. Because me, just little old Andrea? She was only human. And how could little old human Andrea manage everything going on?

“What if I am not capable of not blaming people?” I asked her.

“You’re asking the wrong questions again,” she told me. “A better one might be, ‘Are you capable of doing this with God’s help?’”

And that’s when, for just tiny moment, I felt the giant weight of the entire world that had been my life for the past 60 days ease. And, just as quickly, all these questions started flooding in — questions that my very own soul had the answers for.

The Beauty of the Right Question

“What if I’m not in charge of my almost adult child’s life decisions at this time?”

“What if I focused on what was going right with my kids instead of what was going wrong?”

“What if it didn’t matter if my husband and I agreed on everything financially?’

“What if my childhood home being sold was not a travesty but the best thing in the world to bring on new beginnings for my mom, my brother and my entire family — to gather in a beautiful new place and create new memories?”

“What if in not ever playing the victim I can expose some of those final tapes from my past that are holding me back so I can release them to God and transform into the person I have meant to be all along?

I couldn’t believe all the questions my soul had for me.

But I can promise you this. I already knew the answers. And one of them, friends, was to fire up this old blog again and write.

I’ve missed it. And I’ve missed you. And most of all, I’ve missed the me that is always happiest when I’m writing. And so, I leave you with this:

“How are you feeling about life these days?”

“Are you asking the right questions?”

And, most important:

“Are you willing to not be a victim in your own life and see what life has to teach you so you can be better, instead of do better?”

If so, you’re in the right place. Follow me as I write Monday — Friday. I can’t wait to grow with you again!

About Me

Image for post

I’m a published TV, blog, magazine and book writer who also coaches moms and grandmoms to write books rooted in wisdom, spirituality and humor. Come back Monday — Friday where I’ll post about spirituality, writing and sobriety. And sometimes tacos. Because Tacos make everything better. Always.

DON’T MISS A NEWSLETTER!

You can sign up for my email list here where ’ll send you a newsletter all about book writing every Wednesday. Happy Hump Day indeed!

Follow me @Facebook, AndreaFrazerWrites or drop me a line: Andrea@AndreaFrazerWrites.com

faith, God, humor, meditation, sobriety, spirituality, writing

Coronavirus Rushed in While Our Focus Was Elsewhere


Jez Timms @Unspash
The click bait title above was waiting for me in my in-box first thing this morning.
The Los Angeles Times wrote, “The Trump impeachment. The death of Kobe Bryant. The crowded Democratic presidential field. We dive into the fleeting days of 2019 and the first three months of 2020, when America and the world were looking elsewhere as an intruder crept in.”

That’s some heavy stuff. I’m not surprised, with headlines like this, that everyone looks at each other in the super market with just a little less kindness. As if simply asking about their day is some sort of manipulative gesture to snatch from extra toilet paper from under their cart. I can’t help but wonder if we put as much in energy into focusing on what was working, instead of what wasn’t, if our mental attitudes wouldn’t be that much more serene.

More Gratitude/Less Attitude

Okay, so that sounds super cheesy, but but I do feel like I have so much to be grateful for. I’ve been in 12 step too long, also, to not see the miracles that happen to me and those around me when I look for the good. It doesn’t mean that bad things aren’t happening in the world, but it does mean that good things are happening, too.

Covid 10 is a Virus, But So is Love. And Guess What? Both Are Contagious.

It is a simple fact that so many of us are feeling the strain of Covid 19, but my geraniums? Not so much. In fact, they’re more alive than ever! (Including a new baby second to the front that I snatched from a neighbor’s garden. My son, ever the honest chap, was not so happy at my thievery. I told him to go back and play some video games. Jesus would understand.)

On the subject of gratitude, when I stepped outside tonight with my husband and daughter for our nightly walk around the block, I smiled as my eye spotted a wind chime given to me by my ex-inlaws for Christmas one year. (Did you know I was married for a year back in college? Well, now you do. He is no longer alive, sadly, but his parents and I still keep in touch. Sidenote: This is why you and I can never meet in real life, because once I know you, you’re stuck with me for eternity. Right, Jodee? And that’s a lot of Christmas gifts to be sending everyone!)

Windchime toward the top.

I have a fridge full of food, a husband making pizza and Alexa is currently playing Christmas classics because, in a pandemic, I need a little cheer to remind me that there will be gifts at the end of this crisis. The gifts might not come in the form of material items, but when I’m patient, I can find them just about everywhere I look.

Reading – My Favorite Gift to Stay Present

Today’s reading from Mark Nepo spoke about trust, and for me, it’s become very clear that when I trust God, I’m fine. When I don’t trust Him – when I think it’s up to me to run the entire show – I get agitated, cranky and I blame everyone else for my issues.

Mark Nepo’s The Endless Practice – such great insight and beauty

I don’t want to live like that, people. But yesterday, despite a great beginning to my day, it didn’t end so well. The trick for me, because I’m in constant gratitude, is that I didn’t have to live in my pile of resentment. Unlike my drinking days, where I didn’t like being stuck in my crap but at least it was warm, these days it stinks too much.

So this morning, after sleeping in from an emotional hangover, I got up and meditated. I read some Mark Nepo. I journaled and I said to God what I often say when I can’t get out of my own head: God, help me set aside everything I think I know about this particular issue, and direct my attention to how you’d have me be.

Notice it’s not “What would you have me do.” Either God is, or he isn’t. I don’t need to self-will my way into “fixing” everything. Sometimes I just to let it pass, whether that means butting into someone’s business, giving unwanted advice or somehow thinking I know more than the next person. Um, not true.

I don’t know who your God is, but maybe you can relate to what happens you don’t trust this energy source. It never ends well. I’m so grateful for do-overs every single day.

Here’s what I published on my Facebook page. And I’m happy to say that all’s well that ends well. Not all days are gonna be winners, but with some trust in God – especially on Easter – I’m grateful to rise above my own anger and start over with love again.

Who remembers this episode?

Easter, 12PM

Yesterday started out so beautiful. I woke up deliciously late. I prayed and I meditated. I journaled.

For the first time in a very long time I allowed myself to rest.

No agenda.

No rushed pace.

I prayed for the world in crisis, but I also made an intention to enjoy my present. And that present was mine for the taking: beautiful weather, a walk with my husband, and a trip to Costco where I’d shop for myself and a few folk who can’t get out. Given I would not be back for two weeks at least (please no more messages to me about hand washing and shopping – I get it!) I thought I was in great mental and spiritual shape to get my groceries and go.

But when I got there, the mask kept steaming my glasses. And while I remained patient and asked for help, I started to feel defeated. “Is this what it’s like to be old?” I sighed. “To take 15 minutes to find beans because I can’t read the numbers on the aisles?”

When I got to the register – exhausted – the women (looking more like surgeons than cashiers with their gloves and face coverings) kept pushing me to get my items on the conveyor belt quicker than was my comfort level. “I need to split these items into sections,” I explained. “Are you ready now?” they would bark any time I’d stop briefly to check my cart.

“I’m not ready” I told them, inhaling air to center myself (as best I could with the little oxygen I had inside my mask) and attempting to remember that they deal with crazy customers like me all day long.

“Please wait while I figure it out,” I stated calmly, watching my food roll forward at a pace not unlike the episode where Lucy finds herself madly rearranging chocolates at the candy factory.

The conveyor belt doesn’t stop!” grunted one of the women who I swear was a Sue Sylvester look-alike.

I took a deep breath, looked at her in the eye and stated not unlike a female Terminator of big bulk shopping: “Stop the belt.

Which she did.

A miracle!

Either she found the pause button on the endless metal machine or she, like me, decided if she didn’t pause her own mouth she would murder me before ringing up my total.

$325 later, one stop to a friend and a big unload to a neighbor, I made it home.

It was now 7PM. I had promised my son I’d play Dungeons and Dragons by 730PM. Assuming that nothing got in the way of unpacking, all would be well. (Side note: I’m really working on being someone of follow through. If I can’t be on time for my kids, how can I expect them to be on time for me?)

But somehow in that limited 30 minutes left I had allotted myself, I forgot about dinner. And then my husband – in an effort to be helpful to get us closer to our 730 game time – put the food I had intended to sit out for 3 days to “de-Corona bug” on the clean side of the table. Oh, and my nutritious intake that day? Nothin’ but some dry toast and jelly. (It’s shocking I wasn’t in my fittest spiritual and mental condition.)

I lost it.

In front of the kids.

In essence, I forgot to tell myself to “Stop the belt!”

“Noooo! That’s the clean table cloth side! Now I have to remove the table cloth, do laundry and start over again before the game!” I barked.

In my mind I was going to be that hipster doctor from Michigan, calmly separating the food and spraying down the cardboard/cans with clean white rags and measured breath. Instead I morphed into the Tazmanian devil jacked up on Starbucks fighting invisible germ bugs with In and Out Burger napkins because Lysol Wipes have been about as elusive as the end to this crisis. It wasn’t pretty. #insanity

And all those big attempts to be present for my family and be a good neighbor went to hell. There would be no game because James and I were not speaking. The kids, who aren’t used to us arguing anymore, went into their shells and began drawing instead. I once tried to sit down to which my daughter, calm as a cucumber, said, “We would like a little time to ourselves, Mom. No disrespect.” None taken. Who could blame them? I wanted some time away from myself as well, but I don’t drink anymore. There was no where to hide. I just would have to sit in my feelings for a little bit.

I was consumed with guilt. What’s the point of praying and meditating if I’m going to let my own family down. And, more to the point, let myself down?

And then this voice came into my head that answered that very question – that voice that I can only hear when I don’t try to fix stuff but instead allow myself just to feel what is going on. “Because you are human, Andrea. You are not God. How about you let it go. These aren’t exactly normal times.”

So I attempted to do that. James had gone to bed so my apology to him would have to wait until later. But I told my kids that I was sorry for not being my best.

I listened to them instead of making excuses. (Ouch, that wasn’t easy.)

And at midnight, when I still couldn’t sleep, I took a long ride through the city with my daughter. We looked at the empty streets and I finished listening to her new love “Hadestown.” I then offered up one of my old favorites, “The Jazz Singer” (“Those are some serious power ballads, Mom!” she informed me).

We then sat in the dark front of my childhood church – the one I would not be able to go to for Easter services a few hours later thanks to Covid 19 – and just took a breath.

Like today’s reading from Mark Nepo, I’m starting to really get the fact that life isn’t always about the ups. The downs are part of it also. It’s in the acceptance that I don’t have to get it right, but keep pushing that ball of light up the hill, that I can find serenity.

This Easter morning are no eggs. There are no baskets. But perhaps new life can begin again with my family. I can talk to my husband about what was really behind my reaction to the food on the table. (Fear.) I can play some music and make some lunch. (Nurture.) I can ask if my kids want to try again on Dungeons and Dragons next Saturday. (Openness) And I can trust that the God of my understanding doesn’t expect me to be perfect. I just need to get off that Costco Conveyor belt of life and remember that this, too, shall pass.

Happy Easter, everyone. May you die to the harsh expectations you have of yourself and others and live in the new life of today. Even with our struggles, if we are present to them, there is so much joy to be found in their teachings.

Andrea

Happy Easter everybody!

Until next time,

My book is available on Amazon. (Note: It’s a special ed journey… your kid doesn’t need to have Tourettes to relate!) Follow me on Twitter@AndreaFrazerWrites or on Facebook. )

Want to Write a Book? Contact Me!

Need an editor, a mentor or a ghost writer? Contact me at HappilyTickedOff@Gmail.com or find me on Facebook @AndreaFrazerWriter

Coaching and Wellness, education, faith, God, humor, self improvement, sobriety

Confessions from an Enmeshed Parent

How I broke the toxic cycle of co-dependent parenting to let my teens live their own damn lives.

(Also published on Medium.com)

Bonnie Kittle @ Unsplash

I love this picture. It brings up images of parents that are there for their child but willing to let them run free. It’s a wonderful symbol for what I strive to be for my own kids.

In my last post I spoke about how I was going to take advantage of my forced vacation from school (AKA: My Coronacation) to spend more time with my children. By “children” I mean “very tall teenagers.” And by “spend time” with them I mean “not micro-manage their every move.”

To be clear, I by no means am going to let my 4-bedroom home become a movie set for Lord of the Flies, Coronavirus 2. Nor am I sewing myself a cosplay outfit ala Captain Vontrapp either, complete with a military style schedule and a whistle. (I could never look as hot as Christopher Plummer, so why bother?)

But this wasn’t always the case. There was a time in my parenting career where I lived and breathed everything my children did. I wasn’t a helicopter parent, but I was absolutely an enmeshed one.

Mitch Lensink @ Unsplash

Definition of an Emeshed Parent

According to Psyche Central, you might be an enmeshed parent if this applies to you:

  • “Your children’s good or difficult behavior, and successful or unsuccessful achievements, define your worth.”
  • “Your children are the center of your life — your sole purpose in life.”
  • “Your entire focus is on taking care of your children, rather than also taking care of yourself.”
  • “Your happiness or pain is determined solely by your children.”
  • “You are invasive — you need to know everything about what your children think and do.”

If you asked me if I fit that description, I’d give you a hearty, “Hell, no! Just look at my house. Do their disorganized bedrooms, and their less than perfect school grades, match the traits of someone who is overly concerned with her kids?

But the more I researched it, the more I realized how wrong I was.

An enmeshed parent doesn’t apply to a child’s exterior life. It applies to their emotional ones which, to their supreme detriment, is bound up co-dependently with their parent’s feelings of well being.


My Daughter and Her Enmeshed Mother in Transition

As I’ve mentioned before, my daughter is super independent. She’s smart and sassy and doesn’t take to people telling her what to do. That said, she is still only 15. She simply doesn’t know what she doesn’t know. As her mom, it’s my job to set boundaries with love.

It just so happens that yesterday, on our first day of our Coronacation, we decided to take a walk on the beach. There were no people there… lots of open space… no fears of people coughing Covid 19 over our sun screened faces. It was a perfect time to talk about something that had been on my mind for a long time: her grades, her time management skills, and a particular class next year she really wants to get in.

That last item? She doesn’t just want a spot in this prized class. It’s all she’s been talking about all year. There is an audition component to getting in and, as much as I hate to admit it, I’ve been super anxious about her getting in myself.

Happy vs. Enmeshed in Our Kids Lives

I mean, who wouldn’t want their kid to be happy, right? But if I’m being honest, it’s more than that. I have the tendency to want her to be happy so I can be happy, and that’s never a good combination. That’s enmeshment.

I’m really careful about these days about this toxic parenting. But I wasn’t always. The old Andrea would have been up my daughter’s butt for six months telling her what she needed to do to get ready for the big try out. But this new Andrea — the one who is writing enough herself to not have to live through her daughter’s dreams — was able to be more chill about it.

I’m pretty proud of how the conversation went. It involved more questions than directives. I only brought up the topic when I was calm. (Hence not in the car when I was still pretty irritated about a dental appointment that didn’t go so well.)

Instead of launching into a lecture, I said a little prayer before I began speaking: God, let this conversation be about what is best for Evie’s life, not my enmeshed Mama ego. Let me remember that this is her life, not mine. Let me remember the difference between control and suggestion and have the wisdom to know the difference. (That last bit, God, I suck at. So feel free to smite me when I go overboard.)

Our Healthy Conversation Along the Beach

Tyler Nix@jtylernix @ Unsplash

Me: So, Evie, I’d like to talk to you about your tryout. Is this a good time?

If she said no, I’d have dropped it. I mean, what’s the point of having a conversation with your teenager, unless it’s truly life threatening, if they are not ready to listen?

Her: Sure. What’s up?

Me: Well, I know how badly you want this particular class. And I told you in September I wouldn’t bring this up anymore — and I didn’t. But… you now have three extra weeks to prepare for the tryouts thanks to our enforced time off from school.

Her: And?

Me: And… I’m not seeing you rehearse that much for it. What’s up with that?

Her: Oh that’s simple. I’m not rehearsing!

Me: And… this is because…

Her: It’s because there’s another piece to the audition that I’m much weaker on. I have been using my time to work on that instead.

Me: (Starting to get frustrated… enter enmeshed mama trying to break in) So the first piece isn’t that important?

Her: Oh, no, it totally is.

Me: (Truly stumped) Can you explain to my why, if it’s so important, you’re not doing it?

Her: Yeah. It’s because forever I felt that you wanted me to have this more than I did. And that didn’t feel particularly amazing.

Me: Hmmm.

Note: “Hmmm” is my go-to when I know my kid just needs me to listen. And also when I know she’s right. Translation: May day! May day! My ego has just taken a big hit and it needs comfort big time! Pass the wine!

Crap, you don’t drink anymore! Pray! Breathe!

So I did. Then I pressed her for more detail and braced myself. (Her frankness is not always pretty.)

Her: I sometimes think you don’t see how hard I’m working at other areas of my life and just focus on the areas that are important to you.

Me: Yeah, I can see that. But on this occasion, I do know how much you want this class. I wouldn’t be a great mom if I didn’t at least point out where you have an opportunity to improve.

Her: I know. It just reminds me of how you used to be.

I wanted to scream, “And I was right then, too! Just as I am now!” Instead I went with:

Me: Okay, you have my word I won’t bring it up again.

Her: You won’t have to. Because, don’t freak out, Mama Llama, I’m going to practice more. I just needed you to back off first.

Enter angels singing on the beach! (Okay, not that last part — but it was a victory!)

Lest the above conversation sounds like a cheesy script for the Family Channel, those sentences really did come out of each of our mouths.

We didn’t yell. We didn’t get snarky. We just shared from the heart. None of it would have been possible had I still been acting from my enmeshed mama’s ego.

I Want My Kids to Succeed!

Of course I want my daughter to get into her class, but more important to me is that she wants it. There is nothing in my kids’ lives, minus their health, that I should want more than they do. If I do, I’m bordering on obsessive again. And that, my friends, isn’t healthy.

As an adult, I’m only now finding my way in this world without needing to be propped up by anyone but my own higher power. Rather than have my kids have to figure this out in 12-step rooms, I’d rather they learn this now.

This comes from being a mom who listens more than she talks.

Who asks more questions rather than assumes.

And who has enough of her own life that my kids can go on to have their’s.

As far as my daughter goes, it means that if (worse case) she doesn’t get into that coveted class, she has a safe person to share her disappointment with.

Until next time, may you be less enmeshed, ask questions and, when in doubt, go for a walk on the beach. It really is the balm for all grrrr. (Even more than wine. I promise.)

Until next time,

My book is available on Amazon. (Note: It’s a special ed journey… your kid doesn’t need to have Tourettes to relate!) Follow me on Twitter@AndreaFrazerWrites or on Facebook. )

Coaching and Wellness, faith, God, humor, self improvement, Sobriety, spirituality, writing

Why Putting Off Your Dream Is a Terrible, Furry, Hellacious Mistake (And that lie we all believe about working a “real job”)

(Also published on Medium.com)

Photo by Anthony Tran on Unsplash

Happy weekend, people! I survived my 50th birthday and so far haven’t died from the Coronavirus. I’m grateful to have had so many friends and family celebrate with me. My good friend, Irish Mama, came out to visit with me and I must say it was glorious. One of the highlites was fish tacos in Malibu and watching her giggle with joy when she saw a pod of dolphins frolicking through the waves.

In honor of those dolphins, I’m continuing my pursuit of frolicking in my own life. That begins with my writing.

Thanks to all of you here at WordPress who inspire me every day to read and continue writing. Below is a post that was also published on Medium. I’m giving myself permission to double up on the sites until I figure out what each site will be. (Medium will for sure be more of a niche while this site will be more personal. That said, even if I double up, please go over there and give me some love. Your time on my post gives me financial support and I will of course do the same for you.)

Stay safe, wash your hands and for fxxx sake enjoy your life. (This comin’ from an official old lady, so listen to me!)

“You’ll never be able to escape from your heart. So it’s better to listen to what it has to say.” — Paulo Coelho, The Alchemist

Not too long ago I was subbing for a public school. I was attempting to teach middle school kids to go after their dreams while simultaneously dodging milk cartons being lobbed at my noggin. It turns out something even more powerful than cow juice was directed at my brain. It was a life changing thought: “How can I empower students to live their dreams when I‘m not living mine?”

This insight was not an obsessive compulsive devil in disguise, taunting me on my shoulder. It wasn’t my misfiring mind out to derail me. This knowledge was a real deal truth bomb that lodged into my heart and exploded like emotional shrapnel right into the center of my soul. It shattered the glass walls I had been constructing around me that kept me from doing what I knew was my life’s purpose: to write.

Working a “Real Job”

It’s not like I hadn’t made money writing before, but life, kids, marriage, sobriety (and a pesky pit bull who insists on flying through window screens to maniacally search for our dearly departed roommate) got in the way.

I thought I needed a “real job” to keep all the nuts and bolts of my complicated existence purring like a top. The only problem was that while my family was able to go to the doctor for every scrape and ailment, thanks to my amazing insurance package, they were suffering daily with the sickness of my discontent.

After this one fateful day of subbing, it dawned on me that my “real job” wasn’t just to put braces on my kids so they could one day have perfect teeth while working at a job they also hated. My only “real job” was to show up as my authentic self so I could model for my children what they needed to do to live their true purpose.

Photo by Ian Dooley at Unsplash

“But I Can’t Just Leave My Day Job” and Other Lies We Tell Ourselves

Listen, people, if you’re yelling at the computer screen, I relate. I told myself for years that I, too, could not just quit my job and go after what I really wanted to do with my life. But honestly, I wasn’t asking the right question. And perhaps you aren’t either. So let me help you out with this million dollar inquiry: If you’re not ready to bolt from your secure but lifeless job, are you at least ready to leave your negative thinking behind so that one day you will have the power to leave?

For me, this last question was a game changer, because subconsciously I was addicted to my victim thinking. “I’m too old.”… “I’m not good enough.”… “My family will be mad at me”… “I need the money.”

The real facts are that I was not lacking talent in writing. I was lacking in faith. Yup, I was missing the divine belief that the shepherd boy possessed in The Alchemist. I was not trusting that something much bigger than my own human plans could work everything out.

What Good Is a Higher Power if You Don’t Trust It?

When I got sober, I had to choose a higher power that was bigger than myself to keep me from downing a bottle of Two Buck Chuck over my daily restlessness, irritability and discontent. This higher power was absolutely vital because, as it turns out, it wasn’t my drinking that was my biggest demon — it was my thinking.

Sobriety encouraged me to accept that my higher power, who I choose to call God, loves me unconditionally. But that sweet emotional froth means nothing if I don’t trust it to work in my life. I had to take the plunge. Like Indiana Jones in the second movie, I had to trust that if I took a leap, something invisible would appear beneath my feet and allow me to not crash to my death.

Did I leave my job Norma Ray style in the arms of a handsome man that looked like a cross between Jamie Fraser and Liam Neeson? I wish. But no. Instead, I made the simple decision to cut down from working five days a week to three. I already had a small writing gig in my pocket, and I trusted that with some time off to breathe I’d get more.

Spirituality Can Be as Simple as Getting off Your Ass

Trust is lovely, but action seals the deal. That very night, fingers trembling, I reached out to Sesame Street. I ignored the lie that told me, “You’re nervous. This is a sign you shouldn’t be doing this, Dumbass.” How many times had I gone out with a man who didn’t wear his pants above his butt cheeks and convinced myself he was Prince Charming? Maybe my mind wasn’t such a good source of help after all. No, this time I would go with my gut where truth lives, not my head where confusion lives.

I told this iconic television show that I had a computer full of songs and scripts. I told them that I had exactly the talent they needed to creatively partner with them for new story ideas and lyrics. I was so proud of myself! (You need a melody and poem to tell kids to not fear the Coronavirus? I’m your gal!)

I excitedly emailed my sponsor to let her know that, despite wanting to puke all over my new chevron gray and white rug, I was finally following her guidance: to take the steps and leave the results up to God.

While I’d love to say that Sesame Street immediately returned my email and I’m now writing award winning songs for Cookie Monster, that did not happen. But something else cool did happen: My sponsor informed me that someone in our group composed music for Sesame Street. “Write him!” she nudged me. So I did.

As it turns out, he was just in a similar place to me: confronting his financial fears and wishing he could go after his real dream of writing. What we had here was a miraculous problem: He was a composer that wanted to write, I was a writer that needed help composing music. We made an appointment to meet the very next day to talk about it. Crazy timing. Was it odd or God?

Since that day I have not only begun a fledgling partnership with a brilliant thinker, I have polished up my resume, landed a few more freelance writing clients and begun working sub jobs only in high schools where kids’ brains are more fully developed than a lump of Trader Joe’s pizza dough. (Plus I don’t need to worry about 8th graders smoking Mary Jane in the middle of a math quiz. Yes, that’s happened.)

“And, when you want something, all the universe conspires in helping you to achieve it.”- Paulo Coelho, The Alchemist

Have I gotten rid of my real job yet? No. It’s only been two weeks! But to quote one of my favorite songs from Frozen, “For the first time in forever….” I am trusting that what I’ve been gifted to do is not an accident. I don’t have to people please my family, my culture, my parents or even, most importantly of all, myself. I only need to trust that when I lead with my heart, everything else will roll out like a red carpet, ready to have me dance toward my prize of serenity and joy.

Living Your Dreams is Actually Quite Simple

I had been making everything so complicated, and it’s really quite simple: I have a purpose that was planted in my soul. When I go against that purpose, I feel like crap. When I work toward that purpose, I feel good. And not just that: When I run toward my talents with God at my side, doors fly open quicker than the castle gates at Arendelle. I deserve to feel content and satisfied. And friends, you do, too.

God is everything or he is nothing.

Until next time,

My book is available on Amazon. (Note: It’s a special ed journey… your kid doesn’t need to have Tourettes to relate!) Follow me on Twitter@AndreaFrazerWrites or on Facebook. )

Coaching and Wellness, education, faith, God, self improvement, sobriety, spirituality, writing

I Said No and My Potentially Crappy Day is Now a Giant Hellllll Yes (And more on how trusting God is everything or He is nothing)

https://unsplash.com/@vidarnm

This post is dedicated to Tessa who left me such a sweet comment on my last post. Made my day. Thank you, darlin’.

Two days ago I had one of the worst substitute teaching experiences of my life.

I was told by my sponsor, “You don’t trust God. In fact, based on how you keep walking in the opposite direction of your gifting I believe the real truth is ‘You Hate God.'”

If I didn’t feel terrible before I called her I did when I hung up.

I didn’t feel much better the next morning as I swirled in shame for canceling a sub assignment I had previously accepted. (Truth bomb: I’m way less driven by my emotions now that I’m sober, but I have not yet reached enlightenment.)

Instead of taking contrary action and help other people to take the focus off myself (as we program people are encouraged to do because it works) I moaned to Tuskany about my horrific road blocks. I complained about how I couldn’t sleep the previous night due to my rapid heart beats of fear and trying to figure it all out. I complained about how I’m terrified of being at odds with Rex about finances, that I think maybe having a birthday party is a terrible idea and that perhaps I’m never going to find my purpose in life after all other than to find a magic genie at one of my thrift stores who agrees the only thing I need to do to be happy is drink coffee, inhale carbs and watch the final season of Glee.

Sorry you all missed the Pity Party. I’ll send you an advanced invitation for next one.

But that fiesta won’t be today because… the rest of my day turned out to be Duckin’ Awesome!

https://unsplash.com/@leorivas

Why the quick emotional turn around? Well, it’s pretty simple. I trusted God. I decided I didn’t need to do everything perfectly. I didn’t need to decide that yesterday was the day to go into a downward-spiraled depression over my floors that need re-varnishing, my walls that need repainting or the lack of funds in my account for Disney passes and a trip with my kids to this super cool Finland hotel that would make Elsa weep with jealousy.

Image of The Kakslauttanen Arctic Resort in Saariselkä, Finland taken from
https://worldinsidepictures.com/8-spectacular-ice-hotels-around-the-world-that-you-must-visit/

I could ask God to remove my fear of not being a good enough parent, a good enough daughter, a good enough worker and a good enough friend.

I could trust that God has me subbing because I’m growing my soul right now, if not my bank account, but that I don’t have to do it every single day anymore.

I could trust that in turning down a 20-day guaranteed assignment in an emotionally disturbed classroom might cost me $1000 (to cover my kids’ driving lessons) but there is no hourly rate on my own personal mental health.

With all this ridiculous amount of surrender and trust out the way (I’m super greedy with God’s love) I was able to BE loved rather than BE God (as I’m wont to do) and things just lit up like a slot machine for the rest of the day. I mean, God really showed off.

With that psycho-analysis/dark night of the soul/mental loop to loop THANK GOD I LANDED IN PEACE epiphany out of the way I was able to write. I could trust that God did not give me all sorts of words and ideas only to say, “Just kidding. Go and be miserable at a sub job for the rest of your existence.”

For me, after almost 24 hours of hell, that was exciting news! And it still feels amazing.

And… here’s best part of my current pink cloud awakening – and the reason for this post: When I woke up at 530am to the sound of the school system calling me for a job, I was able to listen with confidence in my heart, not pounding fear, thanks to this news.

When I heard they wanted me to teach music in a prison like middle school where the kids ditch my classroom would rather play their phones than a tuba, I did something I’ve never done before.

I said “No.”

God is everything or he is nothing.

I put my head back on the pillow with confidence that something better would come along.

Five minutes later I got a call to teach a super chill high school. “Yes Please!” I drove to work with joy – yes, joy – and even got a great space in the parking lot.

Similar to my experience at this school last week, I have done very little teaching. All classes have either been taught by other math teachers (and let’s get real, I wouldn’t know the quadratic formula if it pinched my white butt on Main Street) or they have been populated with only 7 students. My last period of the day? I’ll have 5.

I trusted God and I got rewarded. I’m starting to get this.

God is everything or he is nothing.

In closing, I chose the picture at the top of this post because I often feel like that house: I like adventure, but I want to stay warm and cozy on the inside. I want to dream my own dreams while people braver than me go out into the cold winter air and fight wolves.

But right before posting this blog a friend from the program wrote me. And, similar to my serendipities of late, her message had a different spin.

The Spiritual Takeaway?

When we can trust ourselves, and set boundaries (though difficult at first) we can experience so much more excitement than just playing it safe. And readers, we can do this with the God of our understanding.

God is everything or he is nothing.

And One More Takeaway for Good Measure

Even the nicest high school students don’t say “thank you” when they leave your classroom. They also think it’s okay to leave free cafeteria food on their desks and check their phones rather than do their math work. As a teacher, this must be frustrating. But for this writer, who is also a sub so IT’S NOT MY PROBLEM I’m learning that acceptance is the answer to all my problems today.

Throw in saying “No” to crap sub jobs and thermos of hot dark decaf and you can have yourself a pretty damn good day.

Happy weekend! I’ve sooooo enjoyed many of your blogs – old friends and new ones – and I’ll catch up with you Monday.

My book is available on Amazon. (Note: It’s a special ed journey… your kid doesn’t need to have Tourettes to relate!) Follow me on Twitter@AndreaFrazerWrites or on Facebook. )

sobriety, Sobriety

When I Write Down My Dreams at Night They Manifest the Next Day (and other unicorn hippy dippy stuff that works)

Overseas Passenger Terminal, The Rocks, Australia

Photo by Unsplash

What makes my sponsor so amazing for me is that doesn’t let me complain for more than five minutes. What makes my sponsor so annoying, also, is… she doesn’t let me complain for more than five minutes.

This lack of a good complaint session? It’s troubling.

I don’t know about you, but there’s something so gratifying about a good game of vent. I can dig up the issue at hand, point the finger at someone else, have a good glass of my favorite substance – Self Righteous Indignation – and burp a sigh of Poor Me Pleasure.

The only challenge with the above mentioned scenario is that if my pity party continues too long it could go from “Poor me” to “Pour me a drink.” And while I admit 100% I had a very high bottom (meaning I didn’t lose possessions or family members due to my alcoholism) my thinking was very twisted. And since it was not the drinking but the thinking that caused my escape style drinking in the first place, I have to be mindful.

Along these lines, last night I was moaning to Lily about something I was not pleased with in my spouse. She listened patiently… until Minute #2… when she forced me to focus on all the things my husband was doing right instead of his deficiencies.

“Wait, I have 3 more minutes!” I wanted to spit, but instead I launched into a depressive tale about how I was worried my musical would never get finished with all the other stuff I’m doing to keep the bank account monster fed (as well as my teenagers.) This time she cut me off after one minute.

“If you want something to happen,” she interrupted, “You must write it down the night before so that while you’re sleeping it is burned into your subconscious. The next day, then, it will manifest.”

I scoffed. “If that isn’t the stupidest new age crap I’ve ever heard of I don’t know bumpkis. Are you serious?”

“I am,” she smiled. “Try it tonight.”

So I did.

“I’m a musical writer,” I said out loud, a moment before crawling into bed. (Note: I did not write it. It still counts.)

I had the best sleep I’ve had in months.

This morning I went to a meeting I don’t often attend due to work, but since Lily was getting a sobriety cake, I took the day off. After the meeting I walked up to a musician whose share really touched me. I told her that I, too, had fear about my work, but was inspired by her success story. She asked about my project and I told her a few details.

“Do you compose as well?” she asked.

“No,” I admitted sheepishly. “I sing into my phone and write lyrics, but no, I don’t put the notes on paper. It’s a big fear of mine and sometimes takes up far too much rental space in my head.”

She asked for a few samples which I sang – shockingly without reservation.

“I think your songs are actually brilliant,” she says. “Here’s my card. If you want to collaborate, I’ll transpose them into sheet music for you.”

Whaaat?

Then I drive to the mall to get lunch with Lily. Next to me is my favorite style BMW. On the license plate it reads the equivalent of “I Love To Write Music.”

I walk into the restaurant and what is playing? My favorite song from one of my favorite musical soundtracks, “The Greatest Showman.”

After lunch another member from the meeting, someone I’ve never met, sits down and sheepishly admits she’s always wanted to write a memoir. “That’s my specialty!” I say, telling her a bit of my story and handing her my card.

Odd or God?

The Spiritual Takeaway

Sometimes we don’t see results until we take advice and do contrary action. It’s only in completing what makes us nervous that we get the upgrade.

And write down your dreams tonight.

Until next time,

My book is available on Amazon. (Note: It’s a special ed journey… your kid doesn’t need to have Tourettes to relate!) Follow me on Twitter@AndreaFrazerWrites or on Facebook. )

(Note: It’s a special ed journey… your kid doesn’t need to have Tourettes to relate!) Follow me on Twitter@AndreaFrazerWrites or on Facebook.