Wednesday, June 16, 2004

to accept the things i cannot change

i hate this line, i really do. it catches in my throat when i have to say it or even now as i type it. but i know that i can't have the rest (serenity and recovery) without this line.

serenity is a process. it is a daily choice. accept the things i cannot change. yuck.

what can't i change? well for starters liam. i have tried to change liam since we started dating. (we'll be married 17 years in september, 20 years since our first date). it doesn't work.

in recovery we take a 'searching and fearless moral inventory' of ourselves. not our spouses, relatives, coworkers or friends. ourselves. by spending our time trying to fix another person instead of ourselves we are taking their inventory. trust me, it doesn't work, and it definately doesn't bring serenity.

it's only when, through god, i keep my eyes on myself and my inventory that i am going to make progress. that my recovery will step forward today.

'but liam would be such an amazing pastor if he'd just _________' fill in the blank... i was motivated 'for god', not just myself, (i had convinced myself) but it was still wrong. liam had to get to the point where he hit bottom all on his own before he was willing to begin his own recovery process.

accept the things i cannot change... my circumstances. contentment is one of the biggest keys to unlocking serenity. if i am constantly looking over the fence, keeping up with the joneses and lusting over things that are not mine i will never have serenity.

contentment. accepting the things i cannot change.

this does not mean taking abuse or mistreatment, being taken advantage of or settling. it doesn't mean to stop dreaming, hoping or striving. it means that those things will fall into place as we concentrate on our own recovery and work the 12 steps.

after this series i want to focus on the 12 step promises. they are real tangible evidence that the 12 steps work. i truly have experienced every one of these promises in various forms.

contentment. serenity. accepting the things i cannot change.

those promises remind me that the things i long for with all my heart will be made real. no, maybe not the new shiny SUV or that kitchen aid mixer i covet. but the real stuff that matters. those existential things that make everything else fade in the distance.

the truth will set you free, but first it's gonna hurt like hell.

in and through. parker palmer talks of a life changing moment he had on an outward bound experience. rappelling down a cliff face the rocks inverted into a deep pocket. he froze in fear. his instructor informed him that the only way out was through. that is where recovery happens. through the fear and the pain.

in and through.

i quote 'it's counterintuitive, but it's the only way what works.' (let your life speak, listening for the voice of vocation, pg. 83). btw - i highly recommend this book to anyone (and everyone) who is trying to 'find themselves' or seek out what is next in their lives. parker palmer is an author, speaker and educational specialist (i have no idea what else to call him) and was a close friend of henri nouwen. he's a quaker and incredibly challenging to the 'status quo'. i literally would chuck everything, pack up my family and follow him around with a notepad writing down every word he utters. okay, bunny trail over...

in and through. we avoid, block and stuff our feelings and fears by eating, drinking or just plain old drowning them out with noise and busy-ness. it's only when we turn our heads and stare them down that they shrink to their normal size.

i heard a story about people fleeing a tall burning building. one woman froze at the top of the stairs. 'i can't do it, i'm scared' she gasped. the woman behind her said 'do it scared'.

do it scared... when i heard that story i knew that line was meant for me.

you see, i had let fear choke my life. i always knew that something had happened. i just didn't know what. i had blocked it out and was terrified that if i remembered it i would have a nervous breakdown. i had regained some semblance of a life and wasn't willing to trade that for this horrible memory i knew i had to face.

do it scared.

i was running from that memory my whole life. i argued with my therapist weekly. "i can't remember, i have two tiny kids, a pastor for a husband, and a church that will crucify me (memories of our last church) if i have a breakdown. i'll just have to live without it."

it wasn't until i felt safe enough and relaxed enough that i finally did remember.

it didn't come back to me in her office. i had visions of her hypnotizing me (she would have never done that) and i would shake and cry and revert to that 6 year old girl and share with her my trauma. it was much less 'hollywood' than that.

i was shopping at this dirty little thrift store in the town next door. i had to pee, really had to pee. if the store was dirty, you can imagine what the bathroom was like. but there was NO WAY that i was going to set aside my bargains to drive home and have someone else possibly buy them out from under me. so i braved the bathroom.

as i pulled the slide lock shut on the door i remembered everything (well except 'his face'). the bathroom. it happened in the bathroom. i had always thought it happened in my bedroom. my mother found me crying under my big, antique, brass bed, so i had always suspected i was raped there. i remembered crying under my bed, but until that day the details were gone, until that day.

i remember sitting on that toilet (yes, i know it was a dirty bathroom, but remember i was stunned.) and remembered it all. my world didn't implode, i didn't have nervous breakdown. i remembered. in and through. turning my head and staring down that memory shrunk it to it's proper size.

it has it still wrought horrors in my life, yes. please don't think i'm saying it's been all sunshine and roses since. but what i am saying is that i ran in fear from that memory for 29 years, it haunted me, my life was controlled by it, and there on that toilet in that dirty little thrift store it shrunk down to normal size. i wasn't 6 and he wasn't there. i made it. i didn't implode or break down.

in and through.

today, just for today, i accept that i cannot change. liam, my 2 wonderful children my friends, my family or my cirumstances. just for today.

thank you god that accepting each and every difficulty and blessing i face today will bring me the serenity i long for today. help me to accept each one without trying to impose my will on it. amen

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