I’m An Adult Child – part 1

Living life from a basis of fear

Comparing myself to others

Never thinking it was safe to play

Surrounded by people who didn’t respect me or treat me well

Afraid of authority figures and tending to isolate myself

Frightened by angry people and any personal criticism

Feeling overly responsible for others as a way to avoid looking at my own faults

Being my own Harsh, Harsher, and Harshest judge and critic

Feeling tremendously guilty when I stand up for myself instead of giving in to others

Addicted to excitement in its myriad forms

Stuffing feelings, and not even able to remember or feel what they are now

Continuing to live with sick people who were never there emotionally for me in order not to be abandoned.

Yes, Yes, Yes, and Yes. I recognize myself when I read the Laundry List –  14 Traits of an Adult Child. And when I introduce myself at an ACA meeting, ‘Hi, I’m Robin, an adult child,” I’m embracing a reality I have always lived and struggled to hide and accept.

The Red Book has 648 pages, so it can’t be summed up in a paragraph here. What I’d like to do is offer a few bits and pieces as I work through them. Right now I’m working on reparenting myself: learning to be sensitive to my needs and my background experience. For me, I need a lot of validation – that my feelings make sense given my family history.

I encourage myself in many ways. For example, I remind myself when I start to slip into that spiral of self-doubt and condemnation that I’m actually doing a pretty good job; that I am not a bad person; that I have something valuable to share with the world. I repeat Lady Gaga’s words to my hurting hating Self, “You’re on the right track, baby! God makes no mistakes.”

I also tell myself that growth doesn’t happen in the blink of an eye. Patience, my dear! I sing songs with empowering messages, take time at the water’s edge, and share my experiences with trusted friends both in and out of the program.

And like Joe Walsh, I’m taking it One Day at a Time.




Adult Children

ACA is a 12-Step program for Adult Children of Alcoholic/Dysfunctional Families. I joined a local group in January 2016. We meet once a week for about 75 minutes, and we’re all women.  When I first walked in, I felt I was home. Part of it was the warmth of the room’s furnishings: sofas, big comfy chairs, big windows and a lot of light. Part of it was that the women there had been meeting for 25 years, and there was a peaceful practice of acceptance in place that I could feel immediately. But really, the biggest part was that I knew on some level before even opening my mouth or hearing anyone open theirs, that this was a safe space- a place to explore and discover my Self.

The first thing that struck me about the meeting was that no one said a word while someone else was talking. There was absolutely NO CROSSTALK. I was a little uncomfortable about it. I’m used to nodding my head, saying ‘Uh-huh!’ or ‘Really?’ and making eye contact with the speaker, at the very minimum. More often, I like to give my feedback, my Two Cents. In this room, the speaker takes her turn when she’s ready, breaking the silence to say her name and be greeted. After that, no one offers any comment. We just sit and listen. And we Thank her when she’s done. That’s all. Then we return to silence.

The term ‘crosstalk’ means interrupting, referring to, commenting on, or using the contents of what another person has said during the meeting. Many ACA members come from family backgrounds where feelings and perceptions were judged as wrong or defective.  When we were growing up, no one listened to us; or they told us that our feelings were wrong. As adults, we are accustomed to taking care of other people and not taking responsibility for our own lives. In ACA we speak about our own experiences and feelings, and accept without comment what others say because it is True for Them. We work toward taking more responsibility in our lives rather than giving advice to others.

In ACA, we do not touch, hug, or attempt to comfort others when they become emotional during a meeting. If someone begins to cry or weep, we allow them to feel their feelings. We support them by refraining from touching them or interrupting their tears with something we might say. To touch or hug the person is known as ‘fixing.’ We learn to listen, which is often the greatest support of all.

I’ve come to cherish the ‘no crosstalk’ rule. It’s still a challenge for me to remain silent but I’m getting more comfortable with sitting in silence. And I have experienced first-hand how effectively freeing and validating that silence is. There is nowhere else in my experience where I can share what’s on my heart without being interrupted, interpreted, advised, judged, or in some other way verbally responded to, even positively, with questioning or other kinds of feedback. The silence of the group around me is a reward in itself, and I know I have been heard.


Thank you for Asking!

This is not a new survey. It’s been 3 1/2 years since I completed a survey of Unificationist Sunday Services as they are experienced by various members around the world. It was my first research project. I was inspired by the qualitative research of Brene Brown (The Power of Vulnerability), and dealing with a lagging interest in attending a service 90 minutes from home. I was also frustrated that my experience and that of my husband wasn’t part of the conversation. I wanted to find out what others had to say.

Engrossed thoroughly as I was in reading the responses as they came in, the work pulled me through a tough winter in Belgium, and helped me tap into a passion I’ve had all my life: giving voice to the silent or the unheard.  Grassroots stories from the field always catch my interest. All told, I logged in over 600 hours, spanning a period of 3 months. The people who responded had something to say and were glad to be asked.

The finished survey was sent out to everyone who had participated, and then published on the Applied Unificationism blog, but that was as far as it went. This week, I went back for the first time, and realized it might be time to make the website public. For anyone out there who’s interested or involved in similar research,  I hope it is edifying and finds fertile soil in your garden as well.

My Winter Pause

From notes I wrote on Jan 14th, 2015

Joy and Momo

Joy and Momo

7:49am with Momo and Joy on Laura’s patio, Miami, FL

I’ve been at Laura’s since Saturday, when I drove in with a rental car, lugging all my stuff. It’s been 3 full days. Yesterday we made a plan to do two sessions, so it was a real working day. M took his study to the fish office, so Laura and I had the ‘garage’ all to ourselves. That’s what they call it. I call it the Healing Center, or Laura’s office.

The first session was approx. 3 hours. It was a re-assessment and going over and creating a new ‘charged area’ list. The second session was called ‘unblocking’ ~ you pick a person, place, or thing, and the therapist asks you a series of questions about it. For example: ‘Concerning ________, has anything been supressed? Has anything been revealed? judged? concealed? validated?’ It’s a process of opening little holes in the tangled web of our most difficult relationships. It’s like chipping holes in a block of ice so air can circulate. It’s work, and often exhausting, although you’re just talking and sitting on a couch or a comfortable chair.

Today I did a little clearing of my favorite part of the house~ the back patio. I hosed it off and scrubbed the floor and washed down all the outdoor furniture. I like things to be clean, clear, and beautiful, and the patio is where I spend most of my time. I can see the sky, feel the breeze, watch the wildlife on the lake, and be surrounded by beauty. It’s funny, I don’t want to go to the store with Laura to shop, or to the restaurant with them, or to the movies that’s a 40 minute drive away. I said “No, thanks” to all the invitations, and just stayed here at home, most of the time on the back patio with Joy and Momo (the elderly German Shephard and her cat friend). Momo’s lying here on the little table next to my chair. The tip of her tail is flicking, so I know she’s ‘feeling’ my presence. If I just make a tiny humming sound I can activate it. We’re tuned into each other.


I like it here. I can think. I don’t want to get into a car and go out into that world out there. At least not right now. I’m enjoying the space just to be. I’d rather get into a kayak and go out into the world of nature. It’s peaceful, and quiet, and I connect.

Laura's lake.

Laura’s lake.

People pay good money to be in 78 degrees in January, sitting somewhere with their feet up looking out over water and sipping a cool drink. A huge added bonus is that there’s a cat here right next to me keeping me company. She’s a real companion, and I’m not alone at all. Even though it feels so much like a retreat, I’m calling it a ‘pause.’ Laura comes  by, drops in, and brings me a hot tea, or a Vicks Vapo Rub for my neck. We sit out on the davenport together watching the early morning light or the night sky in the evening, sharing stories of our lives. Then I close my eyes and drift off. She heads back inside, and I’m in my space again.

Sunset on the patio.

Sunset on the patio.

Today’s been our ‘day off.’ She made her own schedule, and I made mine. We crossed paths briefly when she was in-between yoga and a lunch date with her husband and a client. “Wanna come in my room and talk while I get changed?” she called through the open door. We touched base, had a good laugh about how well the arrangement we made is working out, and then she was gone again.

Tomorrow is another ‘work day’ and I’m enjoying the unscheduled-ness of today. However, I still made a to-do list. Structure always give me a framework to hang the time on. It wards off the feeling that I’m wasting it, which always bums me out. It also reminds me of jobs that I need to do: writing to my daughter and her husband, repairing the bra I gave Laura, filing down my new partial, making a pot of lentil soup, washing out my handbag and repacking so as to be ready for my next step. I like the feeling of being on top of things. Maybe that’s part of what I need to let go, but for now it serves me well.

On the patio looking out at the lake, I love the sound the coots make when they run across the top of the water, or dive beneath it. There’s always somebody chasing somebody out of their territory, and I never get tired of watching their antics. It’s hard to imagine anything better than this right now. In exchange for some cooking and cleaning, I have a bed with a pillow and blanket, a good book and a lounge chair overlooking a beautiful lake in sunny south Florida. Meanwhile, everybody else is experiencing a cold front, freezing temperatures, and other inconvenient truths. I’m glad, very very glad, to be here.


Then why do I keep worrying in the back of my mind about ‘tomorrow?’

“Leave tomorrow for tomorrow,” says Patty. Think about today instead. It’s a blessing. Don’t be so quick to run off. There’s work here. And sometimes that means just listening to your own breath.

Laura 2

OK. That sounds good. I’m taking a pause for some fresh air…


buddha standard time

I’ve been in Eastern Standard Time most of the last 10 months, except for one brief interlude back to Belgium (Central European Time) last August. Today I’m in Boston, and we had to set the clocks 1 hour ahead, and as usual, I got confused, until Joanie told me that we always Fall Back before we can Spring Forward. Nice, but who knows why we do that anyway?

Time has been weighing on me regardless, and I have been wondering how to get back into the elusive zone of Peaceful Presence. It’s not a specific place on earth, and it can be found everywhere and anywhere. Sometimes it seems to just come, and takes me by surprise, but more often it seems to go, leaving me with thoughts of the burdensome past or a worrisome future. Either way, my time, though I know it’s precious, often feels oppressive, and I feel like I’m wasting it, and running from place to place doesn’t necessarily help.

So, what do I do? Asking what’s wrong with me might not really be the right question. It’s normal that I’d be feeling less than happy about my life, when marriage hasn’t been working out very well and church hasn’t either. At 63, shouldn’t we have built something more?

While washing the linens on my daughter’s bed I spied a basket full of books on the floor. Books always find me when I need them. The Canon~ A Whirligig Tour of the Beautiful Basics of Science, by Natalie Angier. Sounds interesting. Maybe later. Life in a Shell ~ A Physiologist’s View of a Turtle, by Donald Jackson. Must be interesting for Emilie. Oh, what’s this blue book here… buddha standard time~ awakening to the infinite possibilities of now, by my old friend Lama Surya Das. He’s not old, he’s just been helping me for so long. That was the one! I picked it up and carried it out into the kitchen where Felix was meowing at the door. He’s an outdoor cat, or used to be, and he always wants to go out. I feel sorry for him. Somehow I know the feeling. Being stuck inside can feel like being in a tomb. At least it does for me. It may be warm, but there’s no life around. Everything is man-made. Everything seems dead. And I always eat too much.

I followed him down the stairs, and outside. The sun was momentarily blinding. Wow!! Felix hesitated on the doorsill, and stepped gingerly down onto the sidewalk outside the door. It was wet in places. The sun has been melting the snow all day today. Peering closely at the edge of the drift and how it’s a few centimeters from the ground, I wondered if glaciers melt in the same way. I’m sure they do. Drops of water were falling here and there from the roof above. In front of us, a few blades of last fall’s grass were showing along the edge of the brick path. Felix saw them, and bent down to nibble. I thought he would. Cats like grass, especially if they have something wrong with their digestion. He threw up yesterday morning, and I had it on my list to go find him a cat grass plant to eat. I wonder if this is the right kind of grass. Is it the chlorophyll that attracts them? Would any green grass work? In any case, he likes it.

Outside, it’s a different world. Everything is alive. The sun shining, the snow melting, birds chirping, and people moving around in their cars on the street. And that’s just the big stuff. Even the air is alive. Everything is in motion. My heart feels like it just got home, and my body and mind just got freed.

I opened the lawn chair leaning up against the house, chuckling about how I can enjoy the sun no matter where I am, and opened up the book. Felix jumped into my lap, and I felt a rush of love. Any cat that voluntarily sits on my lap gets millions of points with me. I told him so while I hugged him close. Felix doesn’t seem to purr, or show much emotion, but I had the feeling that I had won a million points with him too, just by taking him out.

I noticed that as soon as we stepped out of the house, my spirit lifted. Like a wilted flower that gets a drink. I think Felix’s did as well. He looked like a different cat to me, moving slowly and cautiously along the edge of a 2 foot high drift, ears catching every tiny sound, body completely focused and alert. Now that looks more like a cat. Yes, and I feel more like a human too. Ahhh. The sun is warm, the air is cool, and there’s something about being surrounded by all this living stuff that’s really exhilarating. It’s waking us both up.

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I opened the book.

“Awaken to Natural Time,” it said. Exactly!
“Rediscover the multiple cycles of growth, change and decay in the natural world around you. Learn a mini-meditation or breath break to refresh yourself.”

I closed my eyes, and thought, yes, that’s exactly right. I’m outside, where the natural cycles of life are going on all around, right here outside my door. It’s all doing what it’s supposed to do. I took a breath, and felt time slow down. I’m right here, right now. The world is here with me. I don’t have to rush anywhere to catch up. Past problems are gone, future worries don’t matter. Time seems to have disappeared.

I felt the breath on my nostrils. I’m alive, thank you! This is buddha standard time.