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.

NOVEMBER 10: Release Guilt

Do whatever you need to do to release guilt. Do it often. Make that technique a regular part of your life.

Guilt has gotten a bad name. Many of us insist that we won’t feel guilt ever again, because we felt so much before, because it serves no purpose. Maybe we need to rethink guilt.

Guilt is a feeling. If it’s there and you don’t feel it, honor it, release it, it will block and stop you. It will control your energy and possibly control your life like anything else that’s denied and repressed. Acknowledging guilt won’t make it more real. Acknowledging guilt won’t lead to condemnation. Acknowledging guilt will help you release it. Write it out. Talk it out. Use a ritual from your church. Let yourself know your secrets, even the ones you’ve kept hidden from yourself until now.

Choose a way to express your guilt. Then watch it loosen and leave. That’s how we cleanse our souls.


Accepting Love: November 9

Many of us have worked too hard to make relationships work; sometimes those relationships didn’t have a chance because the other person was unavailable or refused to participate.

To compensate for the other person’s unavailability, we worked too hard. We may have done all or most of the work. This may mask the situation for a while, but we usually get tired. Then, when we stop doing all the work, we notice there is no relationship, or we’re so tired we don’t care.

Doing all the work in a relationship is not loving, giving, or caring. It is self-defeating and relationship-defeating. It creates the illusion of a relationship when in fact there may be no relationship. It enables the other person to be irresponsible for his or her share. Because that does not meet our needs, we ultimately feel victimized.

In our best relationships, we all have temporary periods where one person participates more than the other. This is normal. But as a permanent way of participating in relationships, it leaves us feeling tired, worn out, needy, and angry.

We can learn to participate a reasonable amount, then let the relationship find it’s own life. Are we doing all the calling? Are we doing all the initiating? Are we doing all the giving? Are we the one talking about feelings and striving for intimacy?

Are we doing all the waiting, the hoping, the work?

We can let go. If the relationship is meant to be, it will be, and it will become what it is meant to be. We do not help that process by trying to control it. We do not help ourselves, the other person, or the relationship by trying to force it or by doing all the work.

Let it be. Wait and see. Stop worrying about making it happen. See what happens and strive to understand if that is what you want.

Today, I will stop doing all the work in my relationships. I will give myself and the other person the gift of requiring both people to participate. I will accept the natural level my relationships reach when I do my share and allow the other person to choose what his or her share will be. I can trust my relationships to reach their own level. I do not have to do all the work; I need only do my share.

November 8: Take the lid off the box

The world shrinks or expands in proportion to one’s courage.
— Anaïs Nin

First you crawled; then you learned to walk, and the world grew a little bigger. You learned to ride a bike, and it grew even more. Then you learned to drive a car and bought a plane ticket. Suddenly, the horizons were limitless. But then, those doubts crept in. I can’t go to L.A. I’ll never find my way around. And the world shrinks a little bit. I shouldn’t take that trip this year; I’ve got too many responsibilities. And it shrinks a little more. Enough excuses and rationalizations and you’re left sitting in a little box with the lid tightly affixed.

No experiences, no lessons, no life.

Boxes can be comfortable. I’ve spent some time in them myself. But no matter how cozy you make it, a box is still a box. They come in all sizes and shapes. But whenever we start letting unrealistic fears hold us back and down, we can be fairly certain we’re climbing inside another box, again. It may take a while, but sooner or later we’ll run into the walls.

Find one small I can’t in your life and take the lid off of the box. Look around. It’s a big world out there. If it looks small, it’s because you’ve made it that way. Try for a minor impossibility. Go apply for that dream job. The worst that will happen is that you’ll learn something new about yourself. If you don’t actually get the job, you may find out what it will take to get it, and then the world will grow when you stop wishing for a miracle and begin pursuing your dreams yourself. Pick up some brochures for that photo safari you’ve always wanted to take. Learn how to speak a foreign language. One woman I know had claustrophobia. For her birthday this year, she rode in a elevator for the first time. Then she went back and did it again.

Go ahead. Poke the top off from your box. Stick your head out. Look around. See! The world is a marvelous, amazing place.

Find a fear, then turn it into a ladder. Get out of the box of doubt and insecurity and into the freedom of courage and belief in yourself.

God, give me the courage to climb out of my box.

November 7

What did you do today? What did you like about what you did? What didn’t you like, that you’d like to do better tomorrow? See! Answering those questions wasn’t that hard. The way we need to inventory ourselves is fearlessly, not brutally.

Inventory Focus: Are you willing to be as honest with yourself as you can?

NOVEMBER 6: Value Each Moment

How often we wait for those grand moments of revelation, those intense times that blast us into transformation, those turning points that forever change us and our lives. Those are the dramatic moments we write about, see in movies, and long for in our lives. Yes, they are wonderful. But turning points such as those happen only a couple of times in a movie and a few times in a lifetime.

Each moment of each day in our lives is a valuable turning point— an important part of our spiritual growth, an important scene in the movie of our lives. Each feeling is important: boredom, fear, hate, love, despair, excitement. Each action we take has value: an act of love, an act of healing. Each word we speak, each word we hear, each scene we allow ourselves to see, and each scenario we participate in changes us.

Trust and value each moment of your life. Let it be important. It is a turning point. It is a spiritual experience.


Let’s Make a Deal: November 5

The relationship just wasn’t working out, and I wanted it to so badly. I kept thinking if I just made myself look prettier, if I just tried to be a more loving, kind person, then he would love me. I turned myself inside out to be something better, when all along, who I was was okay. I just couldn’t see what I was doing, though, until I moved forward and accepted reality.

One of the most frustrating stages of acceptance is the bargaining stage. In denial, there is bliss. In anger, there is some sense of power. In bargaining, we vacillate between believing there is something we can do to change things and realizing there isn’t.

We may get our hopes up again and again, only to have them dashed.

Many of us have turned ourselves inside out to try to negotiate with reality. Some of us have done things that appear absurd, in retrospect, once we’ve achieved acceptance.

“If I try to be a better person, then this won’t happen…. If I look prettier, keep a cleaner house, lose weight, smile more, let go, hang on more tightly, close my eyes and count to ten, holler, then I won’t have to face this loss, this change.”

There are stories from members of Al-Anon about attempts to bargain with the alcoholic’s drinking: “If I keep the house cleaner, he won’t drink…. If I make her happy by buying her a new dress, she won’t drink…. If I buy my son a new car, he’ll stop using drugs.”

Adult children have bargained with their losses too: “Maybe if I’m the perfect child, then Mom or Dad will love and approve of me, stop drinking, and be there for me the way I want them to be.” We do big, small, and in-between things, sometimes crazy things, to ward off, stop, or stall the pain involved with accepting reality.

There is no substitute for accepting reality. That’s our goal. But along the way, we may try to strike a deal. Recognizing our attempts at bargaining for what they are—part of the grief process—helps our lives become manageable.

Today, I will give myself and others the freedom to fully grieve losses. I will hold myself accountable, but I will give myself permission to be human.