The Asset of Defects

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Love/Hate (Photo credit: guevo)

I never knew what a character defect was until I stepped into the rooms of Alcoholics Anonymous. I am breaking my anonymity, but it is no secret I am sober almost eleven years and I didn’t get sober alone.  No one gets sober alone.

I found an interesting list of character defects in my research of things I’ve not committed to memory.  Check out the list and see which ones might be screaming at you on any given day. This can be a kind of liberating fun (alkie or not) and if you are a writer, a great tool.

One of my chief character defects is laziness…  interpreted through the Seven Deadly Sins: SLOTH.  But my laziness is an asset in moderation.  For example, it’s Sunday (as I write this it really is Sunday – this will be posted on a Tuesday) and I am feeling sleepy, unmotivated and well, lazy.  I can turn my laziness into an asset by assessing why I am feeling lazy.  Am I just being a tree-climbing sloth or am I legitimately tired and need some rest?  Once I do an honest inventory of my sloth-like ways, I can make an honest judgment and figure out: Is my slothiness justified? 

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How does this relate to writing? Because any great character is full of defects… I don’t know about you, but reading about perfect people with perfect lives and perfect meatloaf is borrring.

I would much rather read about people I can relate to in real life. Do they curse a lot? Make sandwiches instead of hot meals three times a week? Maybe they always have the best intentions, but then that little sloth on the shoulder whispers “It’s okay, naps are more fun.”

Damn you Sloth… and your Slothy wisdom.

Defects are unchecked assets. An asset is saving money… but if you save too much? You’re no better than Scrooge McDuck and his miserly ways.  Maybe you like eating ice cream or chocolate cake… maybe you like casinos. Moderation? It’s all alright… Overkill? they have groups for that if you have a serious problem.

Sure, that glass of wine tastes good and by the second one, you’re feeling alright… But by glass number seven? Um, welcome to my old world when drinking and stupidity synonymously were my things.

Our characters need to be screwed up so much that they are interesting but not unbelievable. Like, Suzy might have a fetish for her own blood… but she can’t cut off an appendage and leave it to fester. Honestly, I’m not sure what defect that would fall into, except totally f**king weird.

Get lost, Weirdo Suzy.

Check out the list of character defects/assets… are any familiar to you? How do you research defects for your characters? 

 

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Day 4 – Keeping Score

Hopscotch
Hopscotch (Photo credit: Jan Tik)

When I was little I played games like most kids.  Hopscotch, Tag and Freedom were some of my favorites.  As I got older, I joined a few organized sports like softball and basketball.  I was athletic and while I didn’t particularly enjoy losing, I did it gracefully… sometimes.

Somewhere along the way I learned the awful habit of comparing myself to others.  My looks, my education, my material belongings… all of this and more was never good enough, never small enough, never big enough, never pretty enough; it was never enough and there began my dark spiral into the “not’s” as I call them.

Comparisons are like keeping score and I came up short (the loser) every damn time.

Something I’ve learned in sobriety is to compare myself to myself.  Everything about me I need to compare only to myself because, being a good alcoholic, it is easy for me to tailspin into a dark hole of self-doubt and woe-is-me.

“She’s prettier.” “Her boobs are bigger.” “Oh my gosh!  Look how cute her feet are!  I wish I had feet like that!” I mean, it goes on and on and on!  Ugh… I can go from 100 to 0 in less that thirty seconds when I start keeping score in my head.

Keeping score wears on my self-esteem, it shows on my face and most important it drains me.  Luckily, I love to read self-help books, go to meetings and talk with other women.  I have learned when I start to keep score and am learning how to stop.

  • Say the Serenity Prayer.
  • Realize that everyone is beautiful in their own way (including me).
  • I am better than I was a year ago.
  • I am on my own journey, and it is amazing.
  • Focus on my attributes.

These are some of the ways I deal with my “not’s.”  I’m human, so some days are easier than others.

Progress, not perfection.

Day 3 – Worthiness

If you don't see your worth, you'll always cho...
(Photo credit: deeplifequotes)

“The reality – the real reality – is that we are already worthy, there is no test to pass.”

That’s right.  Worthiness.  Self-worth. Feeling worthy. I battled with this demon for decades.  I battle a little less each day and am winning the war. Go me!

Worthiness was all in my mind.  I tied my self-worth to people, places and things for years (like a good alcoholic).  Even after I got sober, I still did this and could not figure out why I wasn’t feeling any different.  Then I started reading my Big Book and a ton of other books.

It clicked.

There is no test to pass!  No one is judging me.  Okay, maybe some people are (human nature), but you know what?  Who cares!  In the end I have to stand before me and my Higher Power and that is all I have to live with.  If I can get to the end of the day and go through my inventory and know that I did the best I could, recognize where I need improvement and give it to a God of my understanding, I have lived my life as intended.

Do you ever feel unworthy?  How do you leap that hurdle? 

Seven Years Sober Today… Wow.

English: Foggy sunrise in San Francisco and Bu...
English: Foggy sunrise in San Francisco and Buteo jamaicensis with a mouse (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Yep.. I almost had to pinch myself this morning.  I am seven years clean and sober today by the Grace of God and the amazing people he continues to bless me with.   Today (and for the last three days) are days that I feel so great inside… inside.  Someone commented on my Facebook status that I should be proud.  I AM PROUD! 🙂  Holy hell, if you would have known me seven years ago you would have went screaming into the sun, moon, stars… whatever.  The point is, I was an ugly person.. not because of my physical appearance (although this day seven years ago I wasn’t looking too hot) but because of the person I was inside.

I took so many hostages, lied to so many people and used anyone and anything to get what I needed.  It was all about me and fuck everyone else.  Even after my first couple weeks not picking up a drink or a drug, I was still like that.  Getting sober for me was about more than just putting down a substance. It was about learning a new way to live.

Thanks to God, my program and the amazing people who God has put in my life I am living a new way; an easier, softer way which in essence, is hard, gratifying work.

T – Truth… Speaking My Own

truth by size
truth by size (Photo credit: Will Lion)

I was always a people pleaser.  Always… I couldn’t stand to be disliked so I would keep my feelings buried and wear that plastic smile, laugh that fake laugh and do what it took to gain acceptance.  This is probably the worst thing I have ever done to myself.  This is worse than sleeping with strangers, driving like a maniac or even breaking a window (on purpose).  Because by not speaking my truth, I fortified a wall of lies around my soul that I still chip at today.

I suck at speaking my truth.  I get that knot in my stomach and I get all frazzled and start thinking too much.  That’s when my truth turns into a monster.

Now, while I am an average writer,  I suck at talking.  Seriously.  I hold it in so long that by the time I do get it out (sometimes hours or even days later) it comes out all crazy and illogical.  And honestly, at that point I have lost my focus.  This has plagued me since I was little.

Here goes…

Saturday night my boyfriend and I went to a bar & grill.  Ugh, I know.  But his friend (who he hadn’t seen in over twenty years) was playing in a band (with his other long-lost friend) and he just wanted to clear the air with things in the past.  Okay… no biggie.

We talked before we got out of the car and made a pact.  Neither would leave the other under any and all circumstances. Period. If things got hairy or either of us started to feel uncomfortable we would say so and then we would jet. Okay, there is the pact.

That pact lasted about fifteen minutes.  Yeah, he left me sitting at the bar (with my soda and Loaded Nachos) and went to go mingle with all his old friends.  I sat there alone for thirty minutes being ogled by creepy old guys and the ‘shot girl’ asking me three times if I wanted a shot.  My blood pressure shot through the roof the first time she came by with her tray full of booze loaded test tubes. I snapped ‘no’ as I waved my hand.  Still, she came by two more times.  Ugh, again.

So I am trying to see through the wall to locate my boyfriend in the other part of the bar.  “Where the fuck are you?” I am thinking as I get upset.  I can’t see him but hope he is on the other side of that wall.

I finally spot my boyfriend and some hot blonde hanging all over him.  Okay, now I am feeling resentful, angry and jealous.  This is just not fucking going well… at all. My whole ‘fight or flight’ thing is kicking the shit out of me because I am extremely uncomfortable.

I do not belong here.

So finally after all that, he comes back over with one of his friends. I know my face says, ‘you suck’ because, after all, I wear my heart on my sleeve.  His friend apologizes to me for keeping him away. Do I get an apology from my boyfriend? Nope.  All I get is justification and ‘I didn’t do anything wrong.’

For the rest of the night, true to form, I stuffed in all inside because I didn’t want to ruin the night or act like an ass in the establishment.  That’s what I used to do back when I was ‘out there.’ I’d act like a total psycho no matter where I was if whoever I was with at the time hit me with a perceived injustice.  But this time I wasn’t drunk or high.  I was just me… raw and real with my emotions.

So I guess I have grown up a little.  Most of my old behaviors didn’t ooze from my pores and I kept my composure for the rest of the night.  I did try to bring how I felt up later on when we got home, but that didn’t go well.

Today I did bring it up.  I had to speak my truth.  I had to say where I was inside and I had to let him know that I was not mad at him, but that he broke his word to me and that hurt.  And it wasn’t a question of me being right.  That’s not what I wanted.  I wanted an apology for him leaving my side; for him breaking the pact we made in the car.  He did apologize (sort of) after (from an outsider’s point of view) a hilarious argument/discussion/fight outside on Sunday.

Do you find it difficult to speak your truth?

R – Resentment – The Road to Misery

English: Robert Plutchik's Wheel of Emotions
English: Robert Plutchik’s Wheel of Emotions (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

This post was originally called “Righteousness – The Road to Misery” but I changed it last-minute.  Resentment and righteousness go hand in hand, really. After all, I can’t feel resentful if I am not feeling righteous.  Not to mention, resentment is the number one thing that sends alcoholics and addicts back to a drink or drug no matter how long they have been sober.

I stated in an earlier post how angry I was as a child.  This anger brewed inside me as the decades of my life passed. Realistically, anger for me was always resentment.  I resented:

  • my parents
  • my looks
  • being poor
  • perceived wrongs
  • other people

The list went on for pages.  Then, when I got sober, I was still resentful at everyone and everything.  Sure, I was floating on the pink cloud of newfound freedom from drugs and alcohol.  It was great waking up feeling good – not hung over or dope sick.  But I still had all that resentment and it was eating away at my soul like cancer.

After my pink cloud dissipated into the sun of real life, I was still left with all that resentment!  What to do… how about a Fourth Step?  The Fourth Step works and continues to work today.  See, in all my resentment, anger, jealousy.. etc, I played a part!  I couldn’t believe that.  I mean, how the hell could I play a part in the way my ex-husband treated me years ago or any of the other “injustices” dumped on me?

It was simple and with the help of my sponsor I figured it out.  These days, if I feel resentful I kind of sit in it for a little while (I’m a good alcoholic) but then I really have to do a quick inventory, give it to God and let it go.  This makes for happier days.

How do you handle your resentments?

P – People – They Teach Me A Lot

Wawa Area
Wawa Area (Photo credit: Loimere)

As much as I hated my life until about six years ago, I always loved people.  My first job was at a 7-11 working the 6 am – 3 pm shift and after my shyness and terror wore off, I realized… I love this.  The interaction with the customers was my favorite part of the day.  Even now, working at an accounting firm, as crazy as tax season is, I love when clients come in the office.  There is just something great about being around people.  I always joke that being in nature would be heaven for me, and that really isn’t a joke… really.  I love being around the trees, water and animals.  But people…

While the things I learn from people vary, what is interesting is I learn a lot of behaviors and mannerisms I wish not to have or use. I worked at a Wawa (part-time) as a second job about two years ago.  I loved being on register because of the customers (even the grumpy ones!) and I smiled at everyone that came through my line.  Sometimes there were rude people, and that was okay.  Sometimes there were bratty kids – and bratty adults – who handed me their money in a little rolled up ball (please, if you do this… it is rude.. stop!) But still, I smiled… I loved the people.

One night, a pretty woman a little younger than me came through my line. When I saw her I thought of myself immediately.  Here was this attractive woman, dressed a little provocatively and she was drunk off her ass.  Now, maybe when I was new in sobriety, this would have been a trigger for me, but at this point, it was a sort of epiphany.  I felt sad and embarrassed for her as I rang her up and asked her if she was okay.  She laughed and said something snarky and of course, I just smiled.

After I said a small prayer for her that night before bed, I thanked God for my second chance at life.  I also thanked him for sending that woman through my line as a stark reminder of “what it was like” for me and then remembered “what it is like now.”

It is different and I love it.  I love waking up feeling the same way I went to bed.  I love being able to talk about things without screaming at someone and then drowning my sorrows in booze and drugs.

The people, places and things in my life today are amazing.  Thank you God.. and thank you to everyone else and my program for getting me on with getting on.

How do you handle the interesting people who enter your life on a daily basis?