Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Elephant Suit

Expectations are a such a damn thing.

I've been thinking about how my whole life has been based on expectations: ways I think things should go, which inevitably more percent of the time than not they go not that expected way and then I feel all out of sorts. Hurumph.

My personal sad truth is that I am sort of obsessed with a few things that I expect to be one way, but then I don't really do things to have them turn out that way. And so then I get to feel bad about it. Hooray!

And yes, although that seems totally stupid (totally) it is how I've lived in my head my whole life.

Like this: I am happiest when I do the things I love to do: run, read, write. Take the time to stop and think. Get myself onto my yoga mat just to get my body on the ground and push my imaginary roots into the earth. Eat the food as nourishment not punishment. Spend time by myself every day. Read to my children. Be kind and affectionate with my husband. Wash my face. Brush and floss. Honor my sobriety. Pray some. Get enough sleep. Do some dancing.

Instead I launch myself headlong into a bag of gingersnaps or whip myself into a little frenzy of frustration and resentment where I lecture the kids until we are all heartily sick of me and all my good advice. After the kids are in bed I go into the Facebook/Plants vs. Zombies trance that keeps me up too late and I'm convinced that kicks dents into my soul. I avoid writing because I think I don't have anything to say, or promise myself I'll come back to comment on a blog I've read later: when there's more time, or there might be a better thing I've thought. I don't go for a walk because I'm lazy, and it's cold. I run and hurt myself and declare that I can do nothing so why bother.

And then, the beloved universe gets sick of waiting for me and all my lagging and out come the jumper cables. You know: connections.

For some reason (see: universe) I started re-reading A Woman's Way Through the Twelve Steps. And I got stuck on step one. Then two days later Lilly posted this brilliant post and I spent last night reading that step one chapter again and making notes and drawing and thinking and realized that surrender is the total antithesis for expectation.

Surrender is a lack of expectation.

I got some surrendering to do.

My biggest one is surrendering to me. Like, me me. To stop being innerly embarrassed by who I am. I unconsciously correct myself a thousand times a day to fit in nicely. Lord. This is annoying and awful. It's hard to explain. Even in traffic I try to make life easier for everyone else. I spend my days compromising constantly. What a control freak!

Surrender is a lack of control.

Which means I am totally uncomfortable.


Something else really struck me about Lilly's post: the idea that if you are a true Australian you are almost expected to drink. Like if you don't drink you might want to get off their continent, because unless you're pickled you're branded an impostor and shall be voted off the island. More expectations. Big ones. Nationwide ones.

What bullshit. Stop listening to those fucking people and find some who think being an Australian means you come from Australia. Anyone who thinks you can't be something because you don't drink is fucking ridiculous. Dammit.

Which gets me thinking about surrender again. What if most of some people's ideas don't fit you? What if instead of pushing our square selves into their round holes we take that energy and make our own truths about life? What if that's hard but we just surrender and do it anyway? What if, instead of predicting outcomes we can lean into this moment and be in here and not flung out there in the world of expectations and pseudo rules?

Step one, for anyone who knows or has read the steps, is about admitting powerlessness over our addiction. I had a lot of trouble with that in my very early sobriety: powerless? Um, no.

Um....yes. I am powerless over alcohol. Which is why I choose to never ever use it again.

But I am also power-full. The power comes from the surrender. And the surrender comes from lack of expectation. It comes from having self truths that resonate with me. Giving up the idea that I don't not fit in the world is tough: making decisions from a place of surrender rather than expectation is a hard act to follow. It's not easy to wake up from a lifelong sleep.

But here comes spring. We expected it a month ago, and then today it's freezing out still. So I surrender to the cold today, and dance in my chair. I'll walk instead of run. I'll learn to stop at enough. I get on with the business of living MY life and stop white knuckling the day. I'll be glad to wave my white flag. I expect you will be too.

This video (It's Coldplay "Paradise". Check it out on YouTube if you can't watch it here. It was a perfect way to explain how it feels to be sober.) made me laugh and cry. Lilly, this one's for you. One day we'll meet in person. You'll know me. I'll be the one in the elephant suit too.  xoxo


  1. Can I just say wow! You ailed it for me. Powerless yet powerful. Yes! Thanks.

  2. Nailed. Damn iPad.

  3. Wonderful! Surrender is my word for the year. It is so powerful. I use an 'I Surrender' mantra sometimes and repeat it until it sinks in. Hugs, Amy! Great post! -Jen

    1. I really think that until I surrender I will never have things in control. The control comes from the willing flow. I'm going to use your mantra. xoxo

  4. Oh this is very lovely lovely lovely Amy. I just want to give you a big hug and make everything ok but I know I can't do that. And I know that you are doing it for yourself one tough day at a time.. so keep on keeping on I have faith in you. And I hear ya on the tech-trance late at night. I think we have to start leaving our phones in the kitchen after 6pm at night and not looking at them until the morning... for a week - ya game?

  5. How did you manage to hit something so close to my heart...oh yeah...sober sisters.

    I'm trying to not expect so much from myself or anyone else, to know I'm powerful, to surrender to the idea that...son of a bitch, I'm NOT in control!

    Amazing post. Thank you.


    1. I don't think it's lowering expectations, I think it's relinquishing control of them. Which sounds like two different things to me in my head. The more I tried to quit drinking the more I kept on drinking. It was when I surrendered that I was able to stop. I can't really define that surrender as a sequence of steps: it was just a feeling. Not of giving up, but of knowing that drinking was beyond my capabilities. That I couldn't do it and live. Surrender. There is great power in surrender.


  6. Hi Amy, thanks for this great post, it really got me thinking. You made me realise my head is very tied up in expectations. I like to have everything planned out in my head first, so I know exactly how it's all going to turn out (which of course doesn't work). Situations where I don't know what to expect terrify me (travelling to a new place, motherhood, sobriety). And I'm obsessed with self expectations - although I don't even thing it's what I expect / want for myself, it's what I think other people expect / want, and most of the time I'm probably getting that all wrong. Like this feeling that I am "supposed" to be able to have a couple of glasses of wine once or twice a week, because "that's what people do". Well not me. Just took me a long time to work that one out. I'm not sure I'm quite ready to say, "I'm not going to fit in with some idealised image of what a woman is supposed to be, this is who I am and I'm happy with that" - but I'd like to be able to! Sounds like a place to be :) MTM. x

    1. I am still working it out, but man. It has made a total difference in the way I'm thinking about life. As soon as I start thinking "A, B, C. Then X, Y, Z" I stop. Take a breath. Try not to hurry my life along so much. We'll get there. :) xoxo

  7. How quickly I forgot how much we all echo each other, if you read my post today, I think you'd see and feel the same desperate need to surrender, I just couldn't put a word to it. You did that for me, thank you amiga. I go through my days always feeling like I need to hurry and get done what I'm doing because I need to be doing something else. It robs me of the joy of the moment and it makes me feel so inadequate. Screw that. I'm surrendering. I'm never going to get it all done. Starting today I'm going to make a list of 3 things that I "want" to do every day and that is going to be my priority list.

    1. My to do list consists of

      1. wash face
      2. floss
      3. brush teeth

      If I can do those every day I feel damn good about it. :) xoxoxo

  8. Holy crap! I needed to hear your words today. Expectations. What needs to be done.. What I have to do .. Should do and feeling overwhelmed. Thank you for your message of surrender. You put into words the feelings that so many of us have. I had feelings today I my way home from work that I just want to escape for awhile... Wine used to give me that feeling for the first couple of glasses... But I can't drink anymore to escape. It made me sad. But I can come home and drink a nice cup of tea and check in on wonderful sober blogs and hear a wonderful message that says I'm ok.. We are all ok. Stay in the moment and appreciate and surrender. Thank you!

    1. You're welcome! Staying in the moment and not trying to escape it. Hard to do, but easier in the long run.

  9. YES! A thousand times yes, esp on this:
    "Instead I launch myself headlong into a bag of gingersnaps or whip myself into a little frenzy of frustration and resentment where I lecture the kids until we are all heartily sick of me and all my good advice. After the kids are in bed I go into the Facebook/Plants vs. Zombies trance that keeps me up too late and I'm convinced that kicks dents into my soul."

    Which resonates so much with me because when I used to drink, it was the peaceful trance of repetitive motion that soothed me, the peaceful thoughtlessness, but then later got its vengeance on my wellbeing and happiness a thousand times over.

    Thanks for this lovely post! :)


    1. Thank you! Those few hours of being drinky and "happy" wrecked many a day after. I suppose you have to live in the moment and also remember how long that moment will really last. xo

  10. Thank you so much for your post I'm trying a very half assed approach at getting sober your posts give me so much strength to learn to love myself in spite of myself surrender today that's what I'm going to do just day fuck it and surrender

  11. I don't know how I missed this before - I didn't see it in my blogroll - but I'm so happy I didn't miss it altogether. That is so lovely. The song made me laugh and a little teary. I am imagining us meeting and doing a little sober elephant dance just… because. Because we can. Because we are sober and free.

    I love these thoughts about expectations and acceptance too. I think in my head there is this idea about the perfect way to get sober, and how I have not achieved that, and that's bullshit. The perfect way is whatever works for me and gets me there ultimately. I've also been thinking lately about how I haven't accepted on some fundamental level my need to be sober and how much of a problem that's been. Which is really fundamentally about accepting ME who I am - what the reality is for me rather than how I'd like it to be in my perfect head world.

    The whole concept of things being un-Australian, even other than drinking, is stupid on so many levels. It suggests there are codes of behaviour we must follow or we're somehow not being culturally appropriately - that we're betraying the dominant culture - which leaves scant room for individual difference and diversity. For people just being *people* in all their complexity. Look, it has its own Wiki page:

    In any case, the irony there is that I am not actually even from Australia, so I am always going to be inherently un-Australian no matter how much I drink or don't drink. Ha! So there!



    1. See, no wonder you need to be sober- you aren't even Australian anyway!!!!! :) :) :)

      "Which is really fundamentally about accepting ME who I am - what the reality is for me rather than how I'd like it to be in my perfect head world." A thousand times yes! You said it just right.

      Love you too! xoxoxoxoxo