how's that working for you?

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At an Al-Anon meeting a few weeks ago, the subject was control. (That's the subject of a lot of Al-Anon meetings, actually.) Or, more accurately, the illusion of control. The hardest thing about dealing with an alcoholic is letting go of the false belief that through sheer force of will you can change their behavior. You can't. One of the women in the meeting said that when she finds herself trying (yet again) to change someone else's behavior, she asks herself "...and how's that working for you?" It's a great line, because it highlights the futility of that behavior.

But what is working for me is the Al-Anon program itself.

Last night, a woman at one of her first meetings asked the group whether she'd be able to walk out with an answer to her main question--how to detach from her sister's self-destructive behavior. It scared her, she said, to hear that some of the people in the room had been coming to meetings for as many as 20 years. How could she wait that long for help, she wondered.

Many of us answered. One person reminded her that recovery was a bit like going to the gym. You can't walk in and say to the trainers that you need to be fit right now. If you ask how you can be strong and fit like them, they'll tell you to start doing what they're doing...and to keep doing it. You have to keep coming back.

But just like going to the gym, you can see some results soon. Maybe not the first day, but certainly in the first few weeks. You start to recognize the flaws in your thinking, in part because you hear other people talk about how they recognized theirs. You hear about new ways of interacting with people. Those of us with co-dependence issues, for example, tend to tie their emotional state directly to the people around them. So the idea that I could be happy even if the people I cared about were not...well, that was pretty novel. Amazingly (to me), it's even true!

This summer I've spent a lot of time on my emotional well-being (through the recovery process, and healing time with my family) and my physical well-being (through the resumption of regular exercise, and a return to anti-depressants). What's suffered has been my intellectual well-being, as evidence by my lack of attention to blogging (my intellectual gym, really) and other scholarly activities. As the new school year approaches, it's time to shake off the summer doldrums and shift my brain into a higher gear...hopefully without losing any of the ground I've gained in other areas of my life.

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On Not-Working from Planned Obsolescence on August 11, 2004 12:23 PM

There's been a repeated refrain in my posts this summer: not-working, something I've been doing a lot of for the last two and a half months. I've been pondering this state of stasis for a while, trying to figure out what to make of i... Read More


I find that in order for your intellectual well-being to be healthy and able to accomplish things, your emotional and physical well-being need to be working first. This is something I have been working with this whole summer, probably even last spring as well.

Starting with the mono, all the way to now with recovering from surgery, my emotional state has taken a beating because physically I have felt terrible and have been upset about not being able to actually do anything. This ultimately turns into a form of depression, which in turn makes it extremely difficult to accomplish activities requiring the mind (i.e., the web site I have been trying to work on all summer but haven't started yet), which in turn just feeds an already foul mood and so on and so forth.

Thankfully I've recognized this, and although I have a really hard time taking breaks and feel guilty about not doing much, it is for the best that I take extra time off from work and everything else for the rest of the summer, because otherwise I would be facing burn-out and school has not even started yet.

I am glad the meetings are a big help for you and wish you the best of luck in pulling through this. Do not feel guilty like I do for not accomplishing any "scholarly" activities - you need a break, just as I do, and no one is here to judge you for that. I would rather have a refreshed Professor Lawley who may have to catch up a bit than one who is stressed out because she didn't give herself a chance to recharge! :-)

Liz, you and I seem to be in similar places, if for different reasons. This summer has been, for me, all about personal, emotional, and physical work, all of which have, in the end, gone quite well. The intellectual side of my life has... well, I don't want to say "suffered." Let's just say that I've got less to show for this summer on the research end of things than I'd like. But my own recovery -- from a nightmarish spring semester, from my very positive but still draining tenure review, and from the depression triggered in part by ongoing publishing travails -- for once in my entire blinkin' life really needed to be prioritized. And at last, I had the freedom to do so.

So here's to taking time when you need it, for what you need. As a colleague of mine said to me, when I was once bemoaning my complete and utter failure to write as well and publish as successfully as Big-Name Scholar X, you don't get that kind of career success without paying for it in some other way -- and ultimately, for me, the goal is a good *life*. Not just good work.

So good for you.

Call me Cleopatra (Queen of Denial), but I feel those fallow periods as are important for my intellectual rigor as the active periods. Relax, refuel, regenerate!


Surely you jest... Who controls you is you and your environment. Most people want that to be I'm gonna be in sole control of myself, but these control nothing at the end of the day...!!

"Those of us with co-dependence issues, for example,"

I used ta think ACOA and folks like you and me were the only people to have co-dependence issues.

EveryBODY born has co-dependence issues!! It's called 'growing up and leaving home and starting a family and happily-ever-after and such and so on...!

I snipped some stuff that is, imv, more-or-less true but..

"This summer I√��Ǩ�Ѣve spent a lot of time on my emotional well-being (through the recovery process, and healing time with my family) and my physical well-being (through the resumption of regular exercise, and a return to anti-depressants). What√��Ǩ�Ѣs suffered has been my intellectual well-being, as evidence by my lack of attention to blogging (my intellectual gym, really) and other scholarly activities."

Since 9-11 a lotta people have been doing same, thus the psuedo-or-partial-therapy that blogging provides.

But suffered?? Hm... Sounds like you prefer imbalance over balance (but icbw in this case.. mebbe). I've been working on that over the decades, m'self...

And the intellectual times ARE the fallow times, imv, quite often.


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This page contains a single entry by Liz Lawley published on August 10, 2004 3:02 PM.

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