Yesterday we talked about using deadlines to help ourselves let go. Self-imposed deadlines can also be a way to focus our energy on a task, especially one we’ve been putting off.
“I’m going to get up and have the house cleaned by 1O:00 A.M.” “I’m going to lock myself in the house and have this report written in two days.” “I’m going to get the yard cleaned up by the end of the week.”
There are many times in life when it’s appropriate and healthy to listen to our internal clock about what to do and when to do it. Going with the flow can be a spiritual process, but there are other times when it’s helpful to use self- imposed deadlines to help us get the job done.
Do you need to set a deadline for yourself?
God, help me set appropriate deadlines for myself
Sometimes, we find ourselves in an uncomfortable situation. We don’t know what to do next. We don’t know how to solve the problem. We don’t know the course that’s going to unfold. Maybe we’re seeing someone, and the relationship isn’t gaining any momentum, but it’s not time to push the issue. Maybe all we need to do is give the other person a little space and time to work through his or her stuff. Maybe the business that we’re pursuing isn’t gaining any momentum, but things may change course. Part of us, the obsessive part, says, “I need to know right now.” But the other part of us, the serene, wise part, says “Relax. It’s not time. You don’t have all the information yet.”
Create a deadline, a private one, with yourself. Tell yours elf you’ll give it six weeks or three months or maybe a year to change course. Then you’ll evaluate the data and make a decision about what to do next.
Sometimes, setting a deadline is all we need to do to help ourselves relax. We know we’re not trapped. We’re not being a victim. We’re making a conscious decision to let go and let things unfold.
God, grant me the serenity to not try to force outcomes and solutions too soon.
Grace was the single parent of a seventeen-year-old son, Shawn. Shawn was charismatic, powerful, strong-willed, intelligent, and chemically dependent. Grace loved Shawn deeply. But she also felt trapped by his rebellious teenage years, coupled with his drug and alcohol usage. Shawn had been through treatment once, did well for a while, then had relapsed. Shawn had a driver’s license and a car. In his sober times, Shawn handled the responsibility of the car well. And the agreement was, if Shawn relapsed, he would relinquish the keys.
The problem with chemical dependency is that denial and lying go hand in hand with the disease. When Shawn began using again, he also began lying to his mother. It didn’t take long for Grace to see and understand what was going on. She knew what her boundary was. Take away the car. Grace was clear about what she could and couldn’t do. She couldn’t make Shawn stay sober, but she could refuse to allow him to drive.
Grace took action. She grabbed a screwdriver, went outside, removed both license plates from Shawn’s car, and drove directly to the post office. She then mailed the license plates to a friend of the family and asked that Mend to keep the plates until Shawn sobered up.
Shawn knew a boundary had just been clearly set. Six months later, when his plates were returned to him, he was sober and ready to respect the responsibility involved with driving an automobile.
Sometimes, it’s not enough just to say when. We need to get creative in how we say it, too.
God, help me know that you will always be there to guide me in set ting limits, when it is my responsibility and in my best interests to enforce a particular boundary.
At times, we say when with relative ease. We say, “No thanks, this isn’t right for me,” and we walk away. There are other times when it’s harder to set a boundary or enforce a new limit or decision with people.
Jan and Patrick had a tough time saying when to their grown daughter, Elizabeth. Elizabeth had moved out of the house. She wanted her independence. But she still wanted her mom and dad’s money. She would make deals with them- help me buy this car, or put this deposit on an apartment, then I’ll pay you back. Then she wouldn’t keep her part of the bargain. Mom and Dad continued to send money, even though they had threatened, warned, and tried to deal with the situation in a rational, loving way. They didn’t want to alienate their daughter. And they didn’t want her suffering, which is what Elizabeth claimed she would do if she were “cut off.”
One day, Jan and Patrick sat down with the calculator. They figured out how much support they’d been contributing to Elizabeth’s life. They decided it was time to shut off the money supply. “The only time she called was when she wanted money anyway,” Patrick said. “Jan and I figured that there wasn’t much left of the relationship to lose.”
They gave Elizabeth a three-month warning. The money faucet was shutting off on this date. When that date arrived, the money stopped. A few days later, Elizabeth called back, ranting and raving. She said not only she, but all her friends, thought her parents were despicable for not helping her out, the way good parents should.
“The guilt I felt was overwhelming,” Jan said. “But I also knew that was one of Elizabeth’s favorite tricks. She used our guilt to control us. It was painful. Setting this boundary, this limit, took most of our energy for that entire year- The year of cutting Elizabeth off financially, pushing her out of the nest.”
It’s now been a few years since Jan and Patrick set that boundary Elizabeth has taken financial responsibility for hers elf. She didn’t starve, nor did she go homeless. She was much more resourceful than her parents believed. Jan and Patrick still send her gifts, still take her out for dinner, but they no longer support their grown daughter financially. Their relationship with their daughter has shifted onto new ground. Conversations are no longer about money.
Saying when can be uncomfortable for the person saying it, and for the person hearing it. It sometimes involves more than an immediate decision or reaction; it involves a lifestyle change for the people involved. You may need to stand behind your when with focus, dedication, and commitment. Don’t expect it to be easy to say when and mean what you say. Leave room for other people to have their emotions about your boundaries; give yourself room to have some feelings, too.
God, grant me the energy and commitment to say when and stand behind it.
It was about my fiftieth skydive. I was determined to master this spinning thing. When my turn came, I went to the door, pulled myself outside, then gave myself the count. Ready, set, go. I released my hold and let myself fall into the air.
At first, I fell stable, belly down. Then that dang spinning thing started. I tried to correct my body posture. That didn’t help. The last time this had happened, I had spent so much time trying to correct the problem, I had lost awareness of my altitude. I had been obsessed with the problem and lost track of time—not a good thing to do on the ground, and even worse to do while falling through the air.
I remembered my jumpmaster’s words: What are you going to do, spend the rest of your 1fe trying to gain control? Instead of making further attempts to solve the problem, I would stop it now. By pulling. I yanked my ripcord. Instead of hearing that sweet whooshing sound, the one the parachute makes when it opens correctly, I heard a heavy thud. I looked up. I had been spinning so fast when I opened that I had a knotted mess of line twists and a wad of material over my head.
I had experienced line twists before a few twists that could be kicked out with a little effort. This was different. It looked like a Chinese braid over my head.
This just isn’t working, I thought. I pulled my cutaway hand le, freeing the knotted mass of stuff over my head, then immediately pulled my reserve parachute. It opened sweetly and immediately. I looked at my altimeter. I was at nine thousand feet. This was going to be a long ride down.
About five minutes later, I floated back to the ground. I threw my parachute over my shoulder and tromped back to the student room. When asked what happened, I explained my story It was full of “should’s.” I should have been able to stop spinning. I shouldn’t have opened so high. I apologized for what I had done and for the fact that my rented parachute, which I cut away so high, was going to be tough to find.
“This wasn’t an ideal situation,” said the manager of the school. “But it’s your life. Only you can decide what to do to save it. It’s up to you and you alone to decide what’s right to do.”
Some situations aren’t ideal. Maybe we shouldn’t be in them in the first place and maybe we should have known better. But the facts are what they are. Don’t let shame stop you from taking care of yourself. What are you going to do?
Talk to other people. Get opinions. Read books. But it’s your life—your relationship, your financial situation, your job, your home. It’s up to you to decide what’s best for you. You’re the one who will ultimately live with the results of any decision you make. Assess the situation, and decide what’s right for you.
Take responsibility for your decisions and for how best to live your life.
God, help me stop waiting for others to approve of what I do or don’t do. Guide me in my decision-making and help me trust the choices I make.
This prayer is based on a section of the Big Book of Alcoholics Anonymous:
Thank you for keeping me straight yesterday. Please help me stay straight today.
For the next twenty-four hours, I pray for knowledge of your will for me only, and the power to carry that through.
Please free my thinking of self -will, self-seeking, dishonesty, and wrong motives.
Send me the right thought, word, or action. Show me what my next step should be. In times of doubt and indecision, please send your inspiration and guidance.
I ask that you might help me work through all my problems, to your glory and honor.
This prayer is a recovery prayer. It can take us through any situation. If we pray this prayer, we can trust it has been answered with a yes.
Today, I will trust that God will do for me what I cannot do for myself I will do my part — working the Twelve Steps and letting God do the rest.
Thank you for keeping me straight yesterday. Please help me stay straight today.
- paraphrased from Alcoholics Anonymous
When I first began my recovery from codependency, I was furious about having to begin another recovery program. Seven years earlier, I had begun recovery from chemical dependency. It didn’t seem fair that one person should have to address two major issues in one lifetime.
I’ve gotten over my anger. I’ve learned that my recoveries aren’t isolated from one another. Many of us recovering from codependency and adult children issues are also recovering from addictions: alcoholism, other drug dependency, gambling, food, work, or sex addiction. Some of us are trying to stay free of other compulsive disorders ranging from caretaking to compulsively feeling miserable, guilty, or ashamed.
An important part of codependency recovery is staying clean and free of our compulsive or addictive behaviors. Recovery is one big room we’ve entered called healthy living.
We can wave the white flag of surrender to all our addictions. We can safely turn to a Power greater than ourselves to relieve us of our compulsive behavior. We know that now. Once we begin actively working a program of recovery, God will relieve us of our addictions. Ask God each morning to help us stay free of our addictions and compulsions. Thank God for helping us the day before.
Today, God, help me pay attention to all my recovery issues. Help me know that before I can work on the finer points of my recovery, such as my relationships, I must be free of addictive behaviors.
Fear is at the core of co dependency. It can motivate us to control situations or neglect ourselves.
Many of us have been afraid for so long that we don’t label our feelings fear. We’re used to feeling upset and anxious. It feels normal.
Peace and serenity may be uncomfortable.
At one time, fear may have been appropriate and useful. We may have relied on fear to protect ourselves, much the way soldiers in a war rely on fear to help them survive. But now, in recovery, we’re living life differently.
It’s time to thank our old fears for helping us survive, then wave good-bye to them. Welcome peace, trust, acceptance, and safety. We don’t need that much fear anymore. We can listen to our healthy fears, and let go of the rest.
We can create a feeling of safety for ourselves, now. We are safe, now. We’ve made a commitment to take care of ourselves. We can trust and love ourselves.
God, help me let go of my need to be afraid. Replace it with a need to be at peace. Help me listen to my healthy fears and relinquish the rest.
Many of us have been trying to keep the whole world in orbit with sheer and forceful application of mental energy.
What happens if we let go, if we stop trying to keep the world orbiting and just let it whirl? It’ll keep right on whirling. It’ll stay right on track with no help from us. And we’ll be free and relaxed enough to enjoy our place on it.
Control is an illusion, especially the kind of control we’ve been trying to exert. In fact, controlling gives other people, events, and diseases, such as alcoholism, control over us. Whatever we try to control does have control over us and our life.
I have given this control to many things and people in my life. I have never gotten the results I wanted from controlling or trying to control people. What I received for my efforts is an unmanageable life, whether that unmanageability was inside me or in external events.
In recovery, we make a trade-off. We trade a life that we have tried to control, and we receive in return something better a life that is manageable.
Today, I will exchange a controlled life for one that is manageable.
Please free my thinking of self-will, self-seeking, dishonesty,
and wrong motives.
-paraphrased from Alcoholics Anonymous
There is a difference between owning our power to take care of ourselves, as part of God’s will for our life, and self- will. There is a difference between self-care and self-seeking. And our behaviors are not as much subject to criticism as are the motives underlying them.
There is a harmonic, gentle, timely feeling to owning our power, to self-care, and to acts with healthy motives that are not present in se1fwil1 and self-seeking. We will learn discernment. But we will not always know the difference. Sometimes, we will feel guilty and anxious with no need. We may be surprised at the loving way God wants us to treat ours elves. We can trust that self-care is always appropriate. We want to be free of self—will and self-seeking, but we are always free to take care of ourselves.
God, please guide my motives today, and keep me on Your path. Help me love myself, and others too. Help me understand that more often than not, those two ideas are connected.