Wednesday, September 19, 2012

When Your Canary Passes Out


I recently discovered that I have a canary. No not a literal canary, a figurative one which functions like the proverbial canary in the coal mind.
This image comes from the Project Gutenberg archives.


Legend has it; coal miners would often carry canaries with them into the mines. The bird served as a sort of low tech air sampling system. As long as the canary was alive and singing the air in the mine shaft was likely okay to breath. If however their bird passed out, the minors knew it was time to leave as quickly as possible. While I don’t work in a mine I do find life as a former codependent quite often takes me to places where I need the occasionally low tech warning, letting me know when something is not quite right.

Enduring the schizophrenic ride that is the norm in an alcoholic household is much like living in a houseboat during a hurricane while torpedoes explode just off the bow. Normal is nonexistent and yet I spent my teenage codependent years trying to convince everyone (including myself) that things were just fine and dandy. Over time this left me unable to tell when I personally am off course and even as an adult in my own home I sometimes list off to one side or another. But this time around I was able to tell something was off kilter, the most obvious symptoms manifesting themselves in my writing.

Like a canary struggling for air my writing was suffering from a lack of…something. I found myself trying to write about things which really did not interest me. Putting words to paper became a task instead of something enjoyable, in many ways becoming too much like work. I was out of balance and off course, feeling like the entire process of writing was slowly grinding to a halt. But I could not put my finger on what exactly was wrong until I realized that writing was not the only area where I had lost my balance.

In fact my whole life was out of balance. My family was not getting the time they needed. My volunteer commitments were falling behind. Tasks on the day job were not getting done as efficiently as they should. I had fallen back into old habits reminiscent of my dysfunctional codependent days. In the past I would have suffered along in this state for months until I became ill or some other thing came along to shock me back into reality. Fortunately this time around I had my own personal canary to sound the warning and help me get back on course.

My canary has revived and is now doing fine. I heard its cry in time to move to a better state.  How is your canary doing?

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