Approval Seeking Behavior Drains Your Energy (and I am not a bottomless well)

(My riff as a transwoman in recovery on the PurposeFairy series 9 Reasons Why You Should No Longer Care About People’s Approval; all creative credit belongs to to that author.)

I haven’t been blogging as much the last week or so because I simply haven’t had the oomph to do everything.  Job searching is the hot priority right now.  I did take a little time for me visiting some friends who were camping last weekend, sitting around a campfire getting all smoky and eating s’mores and sharing our mutual amazement at the stunning fall colors and moon.

I have just so much energy to spend and so do you.  I want it to go for something that makes a difference.  Why spend it on something that I know for certain that will never make a difference?

Seeking others’ approval sneaks up on you.  It starts with the nagging sense of never feeling quite rested, never quite on track.  Here is how I stop it:

  • I listen to what people I trust and I know care about me are telling me.  When people ask, “Denise, are you really okay?”, they are asking me if I’m getting off track somewhere.  I need to pay attention to other people.
  • I think about who I’m calling and emailing.  When I find myself spending a lot of time trying to communicate with people I’ve sought for approval, a red flag goes up.  I need to pay attention to warning signs.
  • Following from 1 and 2, my mind starts to fantasize that all that unhealthy stuff from the past could be different now, that people could really like me if I just [fill in the blank].  I really need to pay attention to what I’m telling myself.

Don’t waste any more time today on seeking another person’s approval that you’re never going to get anyway.  It’s the same feeling as when you stop beating your head against a brick wall; it feels so good!

Love, Denise

Approval Seeking Behavior is Time Consuming (and I’m not getting any younger)

(My riff as a transwoman in recovery on the PurposeFairy series 9 Reasons Why You Should No Longer Care About People’s Approval; all creative credit belongs to to that author.)

I and thousands of other Minnesotans are spending gobs of time and energy working to defeat the marriage amendment to the state constitution limiting marriage to one man and one woman.  I believe it’s important to make a distinction here: that investment is not about seeking approval but insisting on rights.  I’m willing to spend those gobs of time telling people why marriage rights are important to me and to our neighbors.  I’m willing to spend that time building bridges of understanding between gender-variant people and the larger community.  I’m not willing to spend time trying to get other folk’s approval.

  • Constantly seeking approval from others takes me down a path where I stop caring about myself.  I stop caring about my own physical, mental and spiritual health because there is no time left for me.
  • Constantly seeking approval from others is not a good investment of time.  The payoff is notoriously poor.  I’ve spent an entire lifetime working to get somebody else to approve of me.  And I have zero to show for all that time.
  • Constantly seeking approval from others misses the grand opportunities of life.  I don’t dare take the time away from other people who aren’t going to give me their approval no matter what to take advantage of positive career moves, traveling through this wonderful world, even the book I’ve always wanted to read.
  • Constantly seeking approval from others feeds on itself in unexpected, perverse ways of spending time.  Addiction robs even more time as it sucks the life out of life itself.

These are all reasons why living a life of constantly seeking approval needs to stop.  I’ve seen dogs who could catch their own tail, not often but I’ve seen it happen.  I’ve never seen a dog who could hold on to it.
Love, Denise

Am I Better Off Then I Was a Year Ago? – go ahead, ask me

I confess to being a semi-semi-pro-political junkie. I particularly enjoy Nate Silver’s 538 blog on the New York Times website. The question du jour is – am I better off than when I was a year ago? I haven’t been asked, but I’m going to answer anyway.

If we are talking financially, I have to say no. Willing to work, a skill set in demand and supportive references have not always paid off for this trans-woman (although I am fairly far along in a job recruitment process at this moment). $4.00 per gallon gasoline is not helping. But that’s not the only way to answer the question.

If the question is about –

  • am I healthier, the answer is yes. Sober living rejuvenates my body, my mind, my spirit.
  • am I happier, the answer is yes. Transitioning into a sane lifestyle beckons anybody into happiness.
  • am I more social, the answer is yes. Only a few friends have dropped off my radar since transitioning to be replaced by far more people I count on as friends.
  • am I more spiritual, the answer is resoundingly yes. My Higher Power God speaks with me and I speak with God in an intimate duet of spirituality, confirming for me that I am indeed a woman made in the image of God.
  • am I more sure of myself, the answer is yes. I no longer stare at the person in the mirror as a stranger; I have integrity. I am one person. And others remark on it without prompting.
  • am I more hopeful, the answer is yes. I can persevere through the storm because I already have that experience and am successful. I know the storm will break.
  • am I more ready, the answer is yes. I do a much better job of focusing on the things that I can change and letting go of those things that I cannot control.

I am not about to say that I am at the end. I cannot say that some days aren’t discouraging, disheartening. But I can say that I am better than I was a year ago. I can say that I am better off than at any previous point in my life. And THAT is the truth.

Love, Denise

I Never Meant to Do You Trouble

It’s a simple fact of recovery – I take personal responsibility for my interactions with other people. Acceptance of responsibility is a big step for addicted people who have always passed the buck to anybody or everything other than where that responsibility belongs.

Every now and then I meet a person in transition who manages to hold a marriage/relationship together in the process. These are extraordinary people with a certain undefinable depth of love in their lives and responsibility to each other. I wish I and other people like me were able to express and to experience that level of responsibility.

I was mentioning to a friend a few days ago what it felt like in terms of personal responsibility to have lived in multiple marriages, what that means in the context of alcoholism and gender identity, what it is like to start telling the truth. My friend responded to me, asking me if I really meant to do somebody else harm. I gave an honest answer after some thought – no.

Transitioning people (and I imagine gay and lesbian people as well) don’t intend to cause another person pain. I think a great deal of the angst of transition is the realization that I in fact did cause somebody else pain. Encountering another’s pain when recovery leads me to personal responsibility and to living outside of my own little world is discouraging.

I want to leave other transitioning and recovering people around me with the word of honest hope. Recognize your personal responsibility, but don’t let that grow in such a way that it leads you back into depression or into addictive behavior. The key to a brighter and happier future is to recognize how the problem happened in the first place and to speak truth to yourself about it. The best insurance against repeating the past is to recognize that you and I are created to be essentially good people.

Grace happens:)

Love, Denise

The Arc of Forgiveness

Step 8 – Made a list of all persons we had harmed and became willing to make amends to them all.

And forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors. – Matthew 6:12

Last night I had an opportunity to share in a small group how spirituality and recovery have intersected for me, the opportunities for healing in those successful moments and the obstacles created when they have not intersected. I have done this exercise some in writing, but this time was the first I have actually verbalized what this means.

As an alcoholic I was unable to forgive anybody for anything. I was unable to forgive the world around me for its seeming lack of care. I was unable to forgive family not for the lack of understanding but their unwillingness to make the effort. I was unable to forgive the church composed of people who still carried their own spiritual and sometimes mental dis-ease. I was unable to forgive God for being silent. I was unable to forgive myself for the consistently poor and insane choices I made, for lack of courage in facing the reality of who I really am.

All told, that is one heck of a lot of baggage to carry around, yes?

I still struggle at times with forgiveness, usually when another person fails to make that effort to stick with me, to at least try to understand. I’ve started to learn to forgive myself for a disease beyond my personal control and for my unwillingness to continue to live in painful inauthenticity. Sometimes I still wish I’d had the foresight and the courage to not lose all those years.

But forgiveness is an arc stretching from the beginning of creation into a future that I can only anticipate. Forgiveness is a day-to-day affair just as is recovery. Forgiveness is a spiritual exercise and discipline which requires effort and attention on my part and an acceptance that it does not require that same effort on the part of the divine. That particular battle is already fought and the verdict for grace is in. It would be easier to understand maybe if there was a to do list to check off to achieve forgiveness and to express forgiveness. But would it be real?

And so today, when a hurtful thought occurs to me, some perceived injustice, some pill of bitterness which makes my spirit grimace, I will remind myself that I can and will make amends where I can, within and without, and where I can’t, I will depend on that which I cannot always do for myself…forgiveness.

Love, Denise

Stories of Rabbits and Change

When I was quite little, I remember a record player I had.  Those old children’s 45s were my prized possessions, especially The Tale of Peter Rabbit. I think people remarked on what kind of boy I must be when I got so emotionally involved in the part where Peter is nearly caught by Farmer MacGregor.  Everybody but my mother.  She always seemed to understand even when she remembered those days as I became an adult.

And now I’m getting reacquainted with The Velveteen Rabbit, a Beatrix Potter story of a stuffed rabbit that the rest of the world thinks is merely a toy but becomes Real because of another’s love.  Go ahead.  Read it again in the dark of night if you don’t want other adults to know you’re reading nursery stories.  But this time when you hear the Velveteen Rabbit speak, try imagining a girl who knows she’s a girl inside and so desperately wants to become Real, only the “real” girls (and everybody else in the world) all know so much better that she’s not and can never be a real girl at all. 

You read it that way and you tell me with a straight face it’s not emotional.  You read it and understand it and you won’t know everything, but you will know a lot more about me.

Love, Denise

Nocturne

The late evening is not generally my time to shine. I’ve always been more a creature of the early morning predawn. I prefer strong coffee and black, much like the Norwegian farm women I knew when I lived in the Red River Valley along the Minnesota – North Dakota line.

By this time of night I have a hard time reading; my eyes refuse to focus. And if I read in bed, reading is a sure cure for insomnia.

Tonight is different. It’s quiet here at the dining room table and I reflect on this day. This has been a day with more challenges than I would have wished, a day with more hope than I deserve, a day brimming with failures and successes. This has been a day when I’ve not said things I should have and said things I should have not. I have been disappointed and yet affirmed by my fellow travelers…in short, a very mixed bag.

I’m reflecting on how much different my life could’ve turned out, both good and bad, but I know this day has been a day of grace. I remember what people said to me today about themselves. They shared their struggles, occasionally their fears, frequently their successes and I learned. I learned that while I’m not the center of the universe, I am a woman of immense value to the divine purpose. I learned that whatever I experience of love and grace around me flows today from one wellspring. I learned that I am important to other people. I learned that even though I have put aside childish things, I have become a child again.

I like the nocturne. I can do now what I cannot seem to do any other time of day. I can be grateful for gifts I have not understood.

Love, Denise

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