I have been having something of a dark night of the soul. No, rather a dark week(s). As Saint John of the Cross said the term “dark night (of the soul)” is used in Christianity for a spiritual crisis in a journey towards union with God. I can only hope that the connection with God or whomever, is coming because right now the journey feels quite dark.
My grunts and moans? Basically, no one is acting how I like, I am frustrated, I am quick to anger and tears, I am confused which way to turn next regarding changes I want in my life, and my mind is a very dangerous and dark neighborhood where I am not safe. I feel like I’m crap and I am reminding myself of it every day. However, the only person in this equation is me. Everyone else is leading their own lives, whether happy or not – my choices are mine to weigh in on and I will make good and bad ones just as I always have. Right now, it kinda sucks to be me, but only because I’m making it so. I need to hit a little bottom, not a big one, pray God, but enough of one to bounce back up with strength and love for myself and those in my life so I don’t lose any more people, and I seem to be very alone lately, even from those who don’t matter to me.
As a sponsor in Al-Anon I help others work the Twelve Steps. The first step is to admit we are powerless. The first exercise I give new sponsees is to make a list of all the things we have power over and what we don’t have power over. This helps put the extent of powerlessness into perspective. While it can be rather jarring, it’s also a relief when you realize that we really don’t have to do all the ‘trying’ we’ve been doing. We’re powerless to begin with so it takes a lot of the pressure off.
Basically, the only thing you have power over is yourself, and then, only certain aspects of yourself. You can change your hair color or style, you can try to lose or gain weight, and you can work hard to change your attitude, your acceptance of things and your understanding of things. Of course, if we could do this easily, a lot of pain could be avoided. That’s why we often need help from someone else, whether spiritual or clinical. Some people seem to have the ability to bend to these things easier than others and certainly some situations are easier to adapt to. But many are not.
Where does that leave the other list? The list we cannot control? Well, that would be everything else. The weather, other people, what other people think of you, whether other people believe you, how they treat you, how you respond to things (this can be improved upon, but often a first reaction is one of powerlessness), your kids and their actions, your spouse and his/her actions, friends, business associates, parents, other peoples behavior in absolutely every way, if you can get a job, keep a job, people dying, pets dying, your health (to some degree). Basically, all the big stuff. The rest of the world is out of your control. Rather intimidating. If anyone tells you have have control over another person or think you can manipulate them to do what you want and it’ll work for more than a short time, please send them to Al-Anon.
Lately, it has been very very frustrating to me that I cannot control what other people think. There are certain things that seem very clear to me and yet that’s all. I cant make anyone else see things through my eyes, feel things through my heart, think things with my brain. It doesn’t matter how logical I am, I have no control over anothers process of thought. I have been frustrated by my son’s behavior. Yet no matter how much I explain it or try and have him behave differently I cannot control him. He even says this to me – “Only I can change how I act” – well DO it I say! Powerless over a five year old. Shouldn’t I have some say over him? Nope.
I cannot make people like me, even if I don’t like them. I can work on caring (less) about what other people think of me, but that’s all I can do and that’s always a process. Some people’s opinions matter, others don’t. I cannot make someone email me back, call me back, want to date me, act as I hope they would, apologize for their behavior, see things my way, do what I want. NOTHING. All I can do is truly accept that I am powerless over these things, get up in the morning and put one foot in front of the other, doing the next thing I need to do to get through my day. When something happens that affects me, I have to do my best to not react. If there is something I can do to make things better for myself I can try – and that’s all I can do. Try. I can do the footwork as they say but the rest is not in my control.
So, what is the ole serenity prayer? It really makes sense if you listen to it carefully - God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things i can, and the wisdom to know the difference. It’s the last part that matters the most to me. It leads to a life with less battle inwards and out. With peace and acceptance. In my last week or so I have been starting at the beginning again. It happens to the best of us. After years in a program (or life!) we have to look at things all over again every once in while. We have to make apologies to ourselves, to others and get a new outlook on life as it is now. When I get there and I know I will in due time, I hope for a year much better than the last two, which were fairly awful due to circumstances I was powerless over yet did not always react well to. I could have done better but few in my position would have (believe me, the situations were life alteringly awful). That’s higher spiritual stuff I don’t have access to on a daily basis. I have to let things go. I have to let people be themselves and not let it bother me, I have to focus on myself and my life and find my happiness. I have to be fulfilled by my career and my personal life, make changes and focus. I have to put myself and my son first. I have to be happy. I have to be happy. I have to be happy. That’s my wish for myself and all of you – and I mean all of you – for 2013.