Guinevere Gets Sober

Recovery news, reviews and stories, by Jennifer Matesa.

Reverb10: 11 Things I Don’t Need

[Until 31 December I’m participating in reverb10, a month-long challenge to get bloggers to respond to writing prompts designed to help themselves and their readers take stock of the past year—conduct the year’s final inventory—and to imagine possibilities for the coming year.]

Topic: 11 Things. What are 11 things your life doesn’t need in 2011? How will you go about eliminating them? How will getting rid of these 11 things change your life?

How strong am I? I’ve always wondered.

Things to get rid of in 2011: Eleven teensy weensy character shortcomings…

Self-doubt. I want to cultivate self-confidence and, on a broader level, faith. To do this I’d like to develop my physical strength. As a kid I could never swing across the monkey-bars, and I’ve never been able to do a pull-up. I could never run or throw, and this meant I was chosen last for every team… Only in the past 12 years have I been able to run at least a mile. I plan to begin a physical training program in the new year that will integrate nutrition and exercise. I’m not worried about my weight—my weight is fine—I only want to know how strong and fit I am, and I want to carry on strengthening my recovery. I’m working with someone who knows about exercise and nutrition, and who knows me, in order to identify the best training regimen. I’ve never believed in my own physical strength, and now’s the time to test it out.

chocolateSugar. To run the railroad you’ve got to fuel the engine… Sugar is one of the poorest fuels. I want to get rid of it. I once went on the Liver Cleansing Diet. It was one of the most difficult diets I’ve ever been on—completely vegetarian for the first two weeks, and dairy-free for the whole thing. And NO SUGAR. Period. I remember my migraines disappeared. Do I have the discipline to exercise and eat the way I need to in order to control my pain? Will I ever know what it’s like to be entirely drug-free? Best of all: will I ever know what it’s like to enjoy truly good health?

Pessimism. Changing habits of thinking is never easy… I read a post on Reverb10’s Twitter feed (#reverb10) today that talked about how the blogger was quitting Reverb, she had had it with the optimistic attitude of the prompts—she was dedicated to seeing the glass as half-empty. As a lifelong pessimist raised to think and behave that way since childhood by the Mother of All Pessimists, this post’s attitude was familiar to me, and also frightening. It was looking into a mirror. … I want to get rid of pessimism. I plan to become, instead of an optimist, a realist. I plan to ground my decisions in data, evidence, and reality-checks from trusted advisors. And then I plan to follow through and trust them. Act on the basis of that information, rather than on the habit of negative feeling and vague intuition. It takes true balls to reject pessimism. It will be such an important model for my son. … I don’t know yet how this will change my life—but I imagine it will put up a few clean windows in my mind.

Self-hatred. I can create a nurturing, healing environment in my mind, the way I do when my body is healing. I wouldn’t admit dirt into a physical wound—I’d protect it from an environment that would be toxic. … Karen Armstrong writes, in The Spiral Staircase, that an interpretation of the Golden Rule, from the Talmud, is, “Don’t do to others what you wouldn’t do to yourself.” What wouldn’t I do to myself?—I wouldn’t run myself down in my mind, speak in disrespectful tones to myself, slap myself upside the head, call myself names, swear at myself.

Impatience and absence. I go out of my head, almost literally, when I can’t bear to let life be as it is. When I feel like I’m slipping radically out of control, I lose my mind—or want to take something to get out of it. “Time takes time,” as they say, and this is something I often refuse to accept, as if the clock shouldn’t pertain to me. I intend to keep up my daily meditation practice to bring my awareness into the present.

Clutter. The physical manifestation of self-hatred and impatience/absence. Organization is simply bringing awareness to bear on my stuff…  Recognizing it as truly mine… And putting it away/getting rid of it because I care about myself.

Self-pity. “Thank you” is a simple, powerful prayer. A gratitude list is an immediate antidote to self-pity.

Hurry. I have this incorrigible habit of overestimating the number of tasks I can get done in a certain amount of time—say a day, or an hour. If I know it takes 10 minutes for me to get somewhere, I’ll shave five off to do something else and wind up late. Today I drove my son to his guitar lesson 20 minutes early—so instead of sitting with him in the car and having a nice chat, or reading together, I drove in a mad rush to the library to pick up a book. Pulling out of the library car park, we had six minutes to get to the lesson, and we made it on the nose. So I’m teaching my kid to lead a life of haste, and I’m also carrying on being addicted to the adrenaline-rush and drama of life on the run. What would I do if life were just calm, and I could relax? I might learn if I could get realistic about the number of jobs that fit into five minutes.

Passivity. Because I never feel like I get “enough” done, I procrastinate about work. I waste time on Facebook or Internet surfing, and I don’t adequately pay attention to scheduling my days so that I’m accountable to a timetable. So in 2011, I plan to use my electronic calendar and maybe check out the Action Method or some other project-management helper to help create incentives and move my projects along.

Perfectionism. Another habit I have is comparing myself with other people who appear more successful than I am at what I’m trying to do in my life—whether it’s blog, write a book, maintain a marriage, raise a kid, or ride a bike. Whatever—if you’re doing something I’m doing, I’m bound to compare myself to you, and you’re probably going to be the one standing on the pedestal. … And quite often I overestimate the number of tasks I can fit into a space of time because I want to do every task perfectly, and this makes me take too long to finish them. Including this blog post… This is where higher power comes in. The thing with me is, I Want Results. But I want the results that I want. If I want to get rid of perfectionism (which is to say, if I want to welcome myself to the human race) I need to put in the work and leave the outcome up to a power greater than myself.


  1. This is a great list, G. So honest. I think they all apply to me, as well. I appreciated your comments about pessimism. At an al-anon meeting last Friday a member commented that he wasn’t sure if he would keep coming. Somehow he felt that, because his wife was doing well, his coming to meetings meant that he was a pessimist and expected the “other shoe to drop”. Somehow, it meant he didn’t have confidence in her. I responded to his comments in a couple of ways. First of all, one of the greatest (and most unexpected) gifts that al-anon has given me has been a set of tools for dealing with “all aspects of my life”. I had no idea that the 12 steps and 12 traditions could apply to everything (I just wanted to cure my daughter). So, it’s definitely worth continuing to come to meetings to keep learning the steps and traditions. The other part of my response had to do with the concept of pessimism. I believe that life is filled with “shoes” that are going to drop sooner or later. This is not pessimism – it is the reality of life. People get hurt, they get sick, they die, they suffer. We all do. Without practicing a spiritual program, I will be in deep s–t when something happens. I must practice. I must sit in meditation. I must develop faith and gratitude during the good times (and not so good) so that I will have someplace to go and something to do when I really, really need it. I think that was what you were talking about, G, when you said that you wanted to give up pessimism – not to become a jolly optimist, but to become a realist. Thanks again for your blog, G, it is on my gratitude list.

  2. Nicely well explained list! I especially liked the Hurry one, because I do that myself but I hadn’t really thought it out like you have. I know I have a problem with being late/just barely on time, but I hadn’t connected it with my tendency to underestimate how long it takes to do things, and with my tendency to try to avoid random downtime.

  3. Guinevere – this is such a great post. There are so many pearls of wisdom I know I am going to come back for a second helping. I related to most if not all of your entries (as I sit here munching on the most revolting sour sweets – I still havn’t kicked that habit!). I really related to impatience and absence. I am going through that at the moment. When things are hard I wish them away. And then I come crashing down on myself because I treasure each second. I think I might need to meditate too!
    Self doubt, passivity and my personal favourite and self hatred. I loved the question you ask and I will remind myself of it (try to) when I go off on one.
    I feel a lengthy New Years resolution list coming on…

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