"One of the gifts that came to me
early in my healing process was a little expression that helped me start changing
my perspective. That expression was, "I don't have any problems - I
have opportunities for growth." The more I stopped focusing on problems
and obstacles, and started looking for the gifts, the lessons, attached to
them, the easier life became.
I became a part of the solution instead
of getting stuck being the victim of the problem. I started seeing
the half of the glass that was full instead of always focusing on the half
that was empty.
Every problem is an opportunity for growth.
My subconscious Codependent attitudes and
perspectives caused me to take life personally - to react emotionally as
if life events were being directed at me personally as a punishment for being
unworthy, for being a shameful creature.
Life is a series of lessons. The more
I became aligned with knowing that I was being given gifts to grow from -
the less I believed that the purpose of life was to punish me - the easier
(All quotes in this color are from
Codependence: The Dance of Wounded Souls)
I had stated in my last article that I would
devote the next couple of articles here to discussing discernment. However
the Universe just provided me with a wonderful example of how very blessed
I am to have learned how to practice the Serenity Prayer in my life, so I
am going to postpone that discussion and devote this article to the power
I just got back from an annual summer trip
that I take with my 12 year old son (who lives in Albuquerque) to visit his
grandparents - my parents - on the farm I grew up on in Nebraska. Some
years in the past I have flown into Albuquerque and rented a car so we could
drive up. Last year I flew him out here and we took an Amtrak ride
back to the Midwest. This year, because of time and financial constraints
we flew. I got us tickets that would allow us to meet in Phoenix and
fly together from there to Omaha, and then return the same way.
Both on the trip there, and on the return,
we had delayed flights that caused us to miss our connections. On the
return I got to spend the night in Phoenix at the airlines expense.
Delayed flights and missed connections are
a supreme pain in neck. I was not happy that these things happened.
I did not like that it happened. I was however, able to very quickly
accept what was happening and take responsibility for what I could change.
On the initial trip that involved calling the airline as soon as I realized
I wasn't going to make my connection so I could see what was happening with
my son's flight. I had to smile when I found out his flight was delayed
also. That meant he wasn't going to be stuck by himself in the Phoenix
airport for hours. Everything worked out okay - both going and coming.
I took the action I could take, which was primarily making phone calls to
coordinate things - and did not waste a lot of time and energy being upset
about the reality of what was happening.
It had taken me several years in early recovery
to realize that I did not have to like some condition to accept the reality
of it. As I have mentioned elsewhere in my writing, a large component
of personal empowerment is accepting reality as it is and making the best
of it - instead of wishing it was different. Wishing it was different
puts me in a victim place. I spent my life prior to codependency recovery
being the victim of life not being what I thought it "should" be, of people
not acting the way I thought they "should" act. It did not serve me.
It was a dysfunctional way of relating to life because, not only did it not
work to help me find happiness and serenity, it created the opposite result.
I was always trying to control life and other people - and being the victim
of life events and other peoples behavior. And because of the toxic
shame at the core of my being - which drove me to find some reason that it
wasn't my fault that things were as they were - I would always look for someone
else to blame for the reality of my life. In my former life, in my
codependent black and white thinking, I would have blamed the airline because
the other option was to blame myself for choosing the "wrong" flights.
That is what I got to watch at the airports
I was in the last few weeks. People absolutely freaking out - experiencing
major melodramatic trauma dramas - because their plans were disrupted.
People crying and screaming, abusing airline personnel (I asked the woman
I dealt with at passenger assistance if she got combat pay.) It wasn't
the people behind the airline counter that were at fault - but that didn't
stop people from abusing them because they did not have a clue about how to
accept something that they didn't have the power to change.
Delayed flights are life events. Life
events happen. Combing a common phrase in our language with something
I say in my book: fertilizer happens. Life events are opportunities
for growth - in this case, a very clear reminder to me of what a gift twelve
step recovery is in my life and how much progress I have made in my recovery.
I was able to accept reality and flow with life instead of fighting reality
and creating a lot of artificial stress.
In some writing I did just before the trip
- for the personal journal I share in my Joy2MeU Journal
- I talked about how life events used to be like an 8 point earthquake in
my life. I reacted - not only to important things like delayed flights
or car breakdowns or losing a job, but also to small things in people's behavior
or the way my day was unfolding - as if they were life threatening, as if
my whole world was being destroyed. Learning to apply the Serenity
Prayer has helped me to stop creating so much artificial stress in my life
because I wasn't accepting reality as it was being presented to me.
About 90% of the stress I used to experience in my life was artificially
created - was created by my attitudes and expectations. As I say in
that journal entry:
"So, I accept whatever it is that I perceive
as deprivation today - and make the best of today. That doesn't mean
that it doesn't generate stress for me. But the stress is like the 3.
earthquake as compared to the 8. earthquake that my perspective of life used
to generate for me.
The great majority of stress felt by any
codependent is manufactured out of dysfunctional beliefs and definitions
- perspectives and expectations that cause us to feel victimized. Most
of the stress I used to feel had to do with trying to figure out how to control
life, worrying about what is right or wrong, obsessing about trying to change
someone else. By learning to accept the things I cannot change, and
integrating a Spiritual belief system into my subconscious programming and
emotional relationship with life, I reduced my perception of stress by maybe
10,000%. Learning to let go has removed the illusion of stress from
my life that was being caused by living life as if it were a test I could
fail. There is still some legitimate stress that is caused by life
events and circumstances. It is not bad or wrong to feel stressed.
There are times when it was real important for me to own that it was OK to
feel stressed - what was important was not to let the impending doom, fear
based programming of the disease blow things out of proportion." - My Unfolding
Process 11 Joy2MeU Journal
By learning to be discerning enough to accept
the things I cannot change, I am able to change something that is in my power
to change - my attitude towards the things I can not change. By learning
to let go of any attitudes I am empowering that are causing me to not accept
reality, I have found a level of serenity in my life that is mind boggling
to me at times. It is also kind of mind boggling to be reminded that
the majority of the people in the world still do not have a clue about how
to make their lives easier and more peace filled.
It is the inability of people to practice
acceptance in their lives that is the cause of so much of the conflict in
the world. When enough people learn to apply the Serenity Prayer in
their lives is when we will be able to create world peace. It is through
focusing on our individual recovery that we will heal the planet.