December 6: Celebrate

Look at your life. Look back at the path that you’ve walked this far and celebrate!

One of the joys of walking to the top of a mountain is looking back at how far you’ve come. It’s wonderful to stand on a high ridge and see the tiny footpath stretching off into the distance.

Celebrate with awe how far you’ve come in those first few steps of sobriety and in your faith and willingness to let go of your fears. Celebrate those first faltering moments of learning what it meant to take care of yourself. Even now, with each step you take, you are being transformed. Celebrate!

Turn around. Look. See how far you’ve come. Celebrate the journey that you’ve taken so far.

And look forward to the adventure that lies ahead.

God, help me celebrate all our triumphs. Thank you for walking with me, even when I felt like I was walking alone.

December 5

“How do I change?” a woman asked her friend.

“HOW,” the friend replied.

“Yes, that’s what I’m asking. How do I change?”

“I told you,” her friend said. “HOW is how you change. Honesty. Openness. Willingness to try.”

HOW isn’t new. It’s not groundbreaking. But sometimes the best road to take is ground that’s been trod.

A friend called one day when I was struggling to take an action in my life that just wasn’t coming together. “Are you willing to try?” she asked.

“Right now I’m working on wanting to want to,” I said. “That’s the best I can do.”

Inventory Focus: Are you willing to take actions, small baby steps, even when those steps feel awkward and uncomfortable? If you’re not willing to take action to change, are you at least willing to become willing? That’s an action too. Willingness is a prerequisite to receive the power to act.

DECEMBER 4: You Decide

This is an old lesson, but it bears repeating and remembering. We don’t have to let anyone control our lives, our choices, our joy.

No matter how well we thought we learned that lesson, it often reappears. Another person starts to pull our strings. We get involved, entangled, hooked in. We hear ourselves singing an old tune—If only she would, if only he wouldn’t, then I would be…We realize that once again we have given up too much control. We have deferred our lives to the wishes, whims, and choices of another.

Yes, if we are living fully, we will have reactions to those around us. Our relationships will help shape us, teach us things. And yes, there are times we are so connected to others, love them so much, that their path does affect ours. But we don’t have to let another person control our choices, our behaviors, or our lives.

Maybe she will. Maybe he won’t. But what about you? What do you want? What course of action feels right for you, for your life? Do you want to assign responsibility for whether you take that course to another? Do you really?

Sometimes, no matter how much you love others, it’s time to let go, time to let them walk their path. Time to realize that it is your responsibility to walk your own. Go in love. Go in peace. Go in gentle power. You are responsible for your life. You are responsible for your choices. It doesn’t matter what the other person does. You are still responsible for you.

Take care of yourself, then take it one step further. Love, nurture, honor, and respect yourself.

Only you can decide what you’re going to do.


Developing Healthy Tolerance: December 3

Many of us are skilled at denying and discounting what hurts us. We may endure a particular situation, telling ourselves repeatedly it’s not that bad; we shouldn’t be so demanding; it’ll change any day; we should be able to live with it; it doesn’t annoy us; the other person didn’t really mean it; it doesn’t hurt; maybe it’s just us.

We may fight and argue with ourselves about the reality and validity of our pain—our right to feel it and do something about it.

Often we will tolerate too much or so much that we become furious and refuse to tolerate any more.

We can learn to develop healthy tolerance.

We do that by setting healthy boundaries and trusting ourselves to own our power with people. We can lessen our pain and suffering by validating and paying attention to ourselves. We can work at shortening the time between identifying a need to set a boundary, and taking clear, direct action.

We aren’t crazy. Some behaviors really do bug us. Some behaviors really are inappropriate, annoying, hurtful, or abusive.

We don’t have to feel guilty about taking care of ourselves once we identify a boundary that needs to be set. Look at the experience as an experiment in owning our power, in establishing new, healthy boundaries and limits for ourselves.

We don’t have to feel guilty or apologize or explain ourselves after we’ve set a boundary. We can learn to accept the awkwardness and discomfort of setting boundaries with people. We can establish our rights to have these limits. We can give the other person room to have and explore his or her feelings; we can give ourselves room to have our feelings—as we struggle to own our power and create good, working relationships.

Once we can trust our ability to take care of ourselves, we will develop healthy reasonable tolerance of others.

God, help me begin striving for healthy boundaries and healthy tolerance for myself and others.

December 2: The lesson is joy

I was visiting a counselor in Minnesota one cold January day in 1991. We were talking about the present and speculating about the lessons to come. She grabbed my hand and looked at me, looked right into my eyes. “This I know for sure,” she said. “You’ve been through enough pain. Now you’re going to learn about joy.”

One week later, my son Shane died.

Mixed in with my grief was rage. I was so angry with her for saying that. It was another instance of getting my hopes up that I could finally be happy. Now, I felt tricked and let down.

The years passed slowly. I lost almost everything, including my desire to write. Nichole graduated from high school. Then she moved out of the house, and to New York. Life kept changing and moving along, in spite of how I felt.

One year I noticed that the anniversary of Shane’s death had passed, and I hadn’t become depressed. Then I began to notice something else. I was beginning to feel alive, vibrant, awestruck with life. It wasn’t a naïve assumption that whatever I wanted, I’d get. It was a newfound ability to surrender to each moment and enjoy what life brought my way. I made new friends. My relationships with old friends changed. What inspired me was my new relationship with life. I stopped looking for outward circumstances to provide me with happiness. I began to see that I held that key myself.

If you’re going through something in your life that isn’t what you planned, a transformation is at hand. While we might prefer to be transformed in the twinkling of an eye, it usually doesn’t happen that fast. It takes all the moments added together, and sometimes those moments go on and on. But one day when you least expect it—a phoenix rises from the ashes. That phoenix is you.

Some of us encounter a lot of pain. Some of us have less. If I could sit across from you right now, I’d look into your eyes and say these words to you: “I know you’ve been through a lot. But there’s a new cycle coming. You’re going to learn about joy.”

Life is going to take you on your own journey of personal transformation. You may have to let go of some things. But don’t worry, you’ll get some of those things back. And sometimes when we think something is lost, it’s not. It’s just moved to a different place. No pain, no gain, is what many people say. And usually they say that because when the lesson is learned, the pain stops. But then something happens. It just clicks in. The moments start getting better and better. And it’s not because of what we get. It happens because we’ve surrendered. And although it looks like what we’ve surrendered to is pain and heartache, we’ve really surrendered to God’s will.

There’s a world out there—right outside your door. And the key that opens that door is in your hand. The ultimate lesson is learning joy. Put your fears aside. Live your life, whatever that means to you today. It may happen today, tomorrow, next week, or in ten years. But you won’t be able to help yourself. You’ll throw your hat up in the air, look around, and shout, “Oh my God, how sweet life is.”

God, help me get through my lessons, one by one. Then bring me to that place where I learn about joy.

December 1

We all like to feel comfortable. But doing something new, especially taking an action to change, usually doesn’t feel comfortable. It feels awkward and strange.

Sometimes depression and anxiety can block us from taking the actions we want and need to take. Not taking these actions can increase our depression and anxiety, and we feel even less motivated to act. This cycle can keep us trapped.

If depression and anxiety are so severe they’re stopping you from taking actions to live your life, you may need to seek professional help and get those issues under control. That in itself is taking action.

Challenge: The hardest thing about taking positive steps to change can be having enough hope to believe that what we do matters and the steps we take will work.

NOVEMBER 30: Trust Each Moment

Trust. Trust. Trust. Again and again, that’s the issue. See how much of your pain, your anguish, your tension arises simply from not trusting the absolute perfection of the present moment. I’ve lost my way. I’m off track. I’m somehow wrong—in the wrong place at the wrong time, doing the wrong thing. Where I’m going is a dead end. Oh, dear…

You are not off track. You haven’t lost your way. You’re going somewhere worth going. Somewhere magnificent beyond the ability of your mind to comprehend. By trusting the perfection of each moment, you give yourself a gift: permission to enjoy the journey.

Don’t just take the trip.
Let yourself enjoy the ride.