Grief and Action: November 17

Trust in God and do something.
—Mary Lyon

It’s important to let ourselves grieve as a passage between yesterday and tomorrow. But we do not have to be controlled unduly by our grief, or our pain.

There are times when we have grieved, surrendered to the heaviness, tiredness, and weariness of a circumstance long enough. It becomes time to break out. It comes time to take action.

We will know when it’s time to break the routine of grieving. There will be signs within and around us. We will become tired of the heaviness. An idea will occur; an opportunity will present itself. We may think: No. Too much effort…. Do it anyway. Try something. Reach out. Stretch. Do something unusual, something different, something special.

A new activity may help trigger the transformation process. Stay up two hours later than usual! Make an appointment to do something for yourself that is different from what you usually do. Visit someone you haven’t seen in years. Do something to encourage and help the new energy coming your way.

We may not feel like breaking out of grief. It may feel safer, easier, to remain in our cocoon. Begin pushing out anyway.

Test the walls of your cocoon. Push. Push a little harder. It may be time to emerge.

Today, I will trust God and the process, but I will also take action to help myself feel better.

November 16: Be persistent

Earlier in this book, I talked about how little drops of rain, over the years, could wear pockets and indentations into stones. I used this as an analogy to demonstrate how negative influences could wear away our resolve.

It goes both ways.

When I first was in recovery, one of the treatment center staff gave me one good quality about myself when I couldn’t see or find anything about myself to like.

“You’re persistent,” he said.

“Yes,” I thought. “You’re right. I am.”

I also thought if I took one-half the energy I used doing destructive things and channeled it into doing positive activities, there wouldn’t be anything in the world I couldn’t do.

Most of us are persistent. We persistently dwell. We have persistently tried to change what we cannot, usually a circumstance or someone else’s behavior. Take that energy, that persistence, that determination, that almost obsessive resolve, and persevere with the things you can do.

Don’t push.

Let go of concern about the seemingly impossible tasks in your life. Softly, steadily, like the rain, let your kind spirit naturally remove the obstacles in your path.

Life is better when we flow.

But sometimes it takes a persistent flow to change the things we can.

Enough water, persistently applied, can be more powerful than rock.

God, grant me the courage to persevere and the strength to persist.

November 15

The easiest way to figure out what’s bothering me about me is to listen to what I say bothers me about others. Sometimes other people are a better mirror than the one on the wall.

Gratitude Focus: We can be grateful for all the people who help us feel safe enough to honestly look at who we are and what we do.

NOVERMBER 14: Find Your Center

“My life has changed so much,” the man at Breitenbush told me. “I go with the flow now, try to be in the moment, be spontaneous. I’m a foreman, and even at work life goes much more smoothly. A year ago, I didn’t know what it meant to be centered. Now I do and I work at staying that way.” He looked around the camp, a nature retreat in the heart of the Willamette National Forest in Oregon. “And I know how to get there too.”

For many years, I didn’t understand what it meant to be centered either. If I was that way for a while, it was more accidental than deliberate. It takes time, practice, and mostly desire and commitment to make staying centered a way of life. But the time it takes is worth it.

Learn what it feels like to be centered, to be balanced. Learn what it feels like to be off center. Learn to tell the difference. Then, learn to come back to center as quickly as possible.

Quiet. Relaxed. Feeling right about what you’re doing. On track. In harmony. At peace. In balance. No turbulent emotions racing through you. No disorganized thoughts clamoring through your head. Your body feels aligned, and you feel connected to it. What you do and say comes from your center. It feels right and honest. It feels like you, and you feel connected to your self, your deepest self, your soul. Your heart is open. And so is your mind.

That’s the place from which we’re seeking to live our lives. Find a way to get to that place, then go there often. Some helps include nature, listening to music, going for a walk, repeating a prayer, or forms of deep breathing or meditation.

It’s hard to find a place we’ve never been to.
Learn what it feels like to be centered. Know
your center is in you. Then go there often.

Taking Care of Ourselves: November 13

We do not have to wait for others to come to our aid. We are not victims. We are not helpless.

Letting go of faulty thinking means we realize there are no knights on white horses, no magical grandmothers in the sky watching, waiting to rescue us.

Teachers may come our way, but they will not rescue. They will teach. People who care will come, but they will not rescue. They will care. Help will come, but help is not rescuing.

We are our own rescuers.

Our relationships will improve dramatically when we stop rescuing others and stop expecting them to rescue us.

Today, I will let go of the fears and self-doubt that block me from taking assertive action in my best interest. I can take care of myself and let others do the same for themselves.

November 12: Use your connections

As I glanced through the pages of a writer’s magazine one morning, I realized how important this magazine had been in my life. When I began writing back in the late seventies, I had no writer friends. I was on my own with a dream and a sketchy one at that. But by reading this monthly magazine aimed at aspiring writers, I knew I wasn’t alone. Other people had done what I wanted to do; they had started where I was at. This magazine was an important part of my believing I can.

From time to time, we all need connections that help us believe. If we’re beginning recovery from an issue like codependency or chemical dependency, our group meetings help us believe I can. If we’re learning a new skill, like skydiving or flying a plane, sometimes talking to someone that can remember what it felt like to be unsure, awkward, and unskilled goes much further than talking to someone that can only remember being in mastery of the craft.

One day at the drop zone, I grabbed a man who had jumped out of an airplane over ten thousand times. “I’m so scared each time I jump,” I said. “Is it normal to be that afraid?” This skydiving professional—who was so assured and respected—looked at me and smiled. “I was so frightened my first one hundred jumps that I couldn’t even breathe!”

When you’re trying to believe you can, whether it’s believing you can stay sober for the next twenty-four hours, learning to take care of yourself, being a single parent, being in a good relationship, learning to write, learning to type, or learning to jump out of a plane, make good solid connections to people, places, and things that help you believe I can.

And if you run into someone who’s walking a path that you’ve already walked, remember and share how it felt in the beginning so they can come to believe, too.

God, thank you for sending me the connections I need. Let me be of service whenever possible by being honest and speaking from my heart so I can be a good connection, as well.

Activity: Make a list of your connections. What are the areas in your life where you want to believe you can do it? Examples might be sobriety, taking care of yourself, being a single parent, learning to write, learning to be in a relationship, going through a divorce, surviving the loss of a loved one, getting your finances in order, or learning to speak a new language. Once you have your list of I can’s, list in detail your present or potential connections for coming to believe. For instance, in recovery from chemical dependency, your connections might include your Twelve Step groups, the Big Book, a daily meditation book, a counselor, some recovering friends, and a medallion you received—whether it’s for one hour or one day. If you’re learning a new skill, such as writing, your connections might include a teacher, a friend, a book that’s particularly helpful and encouraging, a magazine, and a piece of writing you’ve already done that either has been published or received good responses from friends. This list is solely to help you believe you can. Once you have your connection lists written, use them whenever you need a big dose of I can.

November 11

If we don’t take our inventory, sooner or later someone will take it for us.

Action: Taking a thorough inventory is a good way to get your life on track when you’ve hit a wall, such as with alcoholism or codependency. An inventory can be helpful when you keep running into the same patterns in any area of your life: work, finances, or relationships.

Many people think that taking a few minutes to look at themselves each day is a good maintenance tool. Some people do this by keeping a journal. Others prefer a mental debriefing, or review, at the end of the day.

Looking at other people may be fun and easy, but looking at yourself is a powerful thing to do.