Archives for posts with tag: acceptance

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Photo courtesy of K. Farwell

I’ve had quite an interesting and challenging couple of days. First, I found out my ninety-two year old father had fallen and spent the night on the floor two nights in a row—–at least he was found both mornings lying in the floor instead of his bed. His confusion did not allow people to determine what had actually happened, and he did not have his lifeline necklace on so the automatic “subject has fallen” message did not get sent to the monitoring service.

Later that evening,  I had my house alarm set off indicating a burglary attempt,  and I had to rush out of a meeting I was chairing to meet the police and my “back up person” at my house. No one had been able to contact me directly because I had my phone turned off so it would not interrupt the meeting. I was extremely grateful that our church had installed a phone in our kitchen and that my “back up” friend kept calling that number until I got annoyed enough to stop leading the meeting, walk into the kitchen, and answer the phone so my friend could tell me my house alarm was going off.

Fortunately,  we were able to determine it had been a false alarm. Of course, all the noise and commotion had upset my dogs, and my most timid rescue dog saw an opportunity to escape out the garage door and did so. I called him; he ignored me. I headed out the back door to intercept him and, as I went around the house,  I spotted him barking at and “herding” a young boy on a bicycle. The young man was delightful—he told me “You’ve got a good dog—–all he did was walk across the street to a bush, pee on it, and then he came back to your front door waiting for you to open it.”  I should have known Boo would not leave me or the treats he craves so much, and I should have figured out he’d go to the door he is used to coming in when we go for leash-assisted walks.

That should have been enough excitement for one evening, but my aging body delivered the “crowning touch” to my evening’s adventure. Once I straightened things out with my monitoring company and got my dogs calmed down,  I realized it was way past the time that I should have had my supper. Missing a meal by hours is not a problem for most folks, but for a diabetic it can create problems.  So, as I was fixing my dinner, I noticed an empty plastic zip-lock bag had landed on the floor. I bent to pick it up, and on the way “up” got a muscle spasm in my lower back where I never even knew there were muscles.

Today I am navigating around the house using my cane to help alleviate the pressure on my lower back. All is well, and as problems go, I really have been lucky. However, I have noticed even minor problems like the ones I experienced seem to leave me feeling more tired and worn out than they used to and my pride and ego associated with being  “physically fit” keep being assaulted.

Yesterday I made a trip to the drug store to get some low dose aspirin, and while I was checking out at the register I propped my cane beside me on the counter. The cane fell to the floor and a kind gentleman waiting in line behind me picked it up for me. I thanked him and told him I had not figured out how to keep the cane from falling at times like this.  In my mind I thought my statement about the cane implied: “I don’t need this very often, and I am still not used to using it so I haven’t yet figured out how to keep it from falling.”  The gentleman suggested maybe putting some Velcro on my cane so I could fasten it to my person. This was a well-meant suggestion, and it was probably one that would work. But my still child-like ego heard, “You’re an old lady who needs to constantly have her cane with her.” Logically, I knew this was not what the man had said, but it is what registered.  Actually, I am having a hard time accepting that even simple movements such as stooping to get something off the floor (an almost continuously necessary action in my household) or lifting a small dog down from the bed to the floor can cause acute discomfort that sticks around for a day or two.

I have written in these blogs before about aging being devalued in our society. This week I’ve had to acknowledge that the problematic perception of aging is not just within  my culture at large—–I have internalized it.  I don’t know if it is thinking about my father lying helpless on the floor or anticipating that it will be myself on the floor at some point in time, but I am experiencing a bit of  free-floating anxiety that is telling me I have not transitioned to being retired and on Medicare quite as well as I thought I had.

As I recently told an old friend, “One breath at a time, one moment at a time….all will unfold in God’s time. God is guiding you through this wilderness, and he has also provided co-sojourners who can offer support along the way. Consent. ” Good advice—–I think I’d better follow it. God bless and keep you.

 

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Photo courtesy of K. Farwell

I always come home from church with a plethora of ideas floating around in my head….and my intellect seems to think it is my job to somehow paste them together into a meaningful whole. Today I heard “energy” differentiated from the Holy Spirit, the scripture’s description of the Road to Amadeus scenario once again, and, finally, and perhaps most importantly,  a satisfactory explanation of my church’s policy regarding retired priests—-a policy, that quite frankly  has been a “burr under my saddle” for quite some time.

I think I shall call this blog entry “launching through the Holy Spirit.” Sunday school was full of talk about the Holy Spirit. The sermon following Sunday School added an explanation of the importance of imposing professional boundaries when a priest retires in a way that finally made sense to this psychiatric nurse without triggering my automatic response to resist and distrust authority.  It was suggested that Christ “fasted” from spending time with his  disciples after his resurrection so that there was time for them to digest and internalize the ideas and concepts Jesus had exposed them to and that this period of fasting was a means of allowing the disciples time to understand and to begin to apply the ideals they had been taught.

In the mental health nursing course I teach, we talk about  a similar process that occurs when a young adult leaves home. This stage,  “launching, ” occurs when young adults leave their family of origin and begin establishing their own lives and identities. If this stage proceeds correctly, the young adult is “emancipated” and “individuated” from his or her parents and siblings. This means the individual develops an identity independent of the family that raised him or her yet still maintains  ties with that  family. If  young adults are successfully “launched”  beliefs and values “planted” in them by their family provide a foundation from which they develop  principles that guide their newly found independence.

Of course, many of us, including myself, did not automatically “buy into” our families’ beliefs, and we had to rebel, resist, and develop our own version of  what was originally planted in our minds.  We discarded some “seeds” or ideas,  altered some so that they fit our own emerging value system, and created some new and independent ideas/values of our own.

You may be asking yourself what on earth this has to do with the Road to Amadeus, the Holy Spirit, and the church’s take on retiring priests. Here’s where I am going to share my own, and somewhat, original idea about how all of this is related. I apologize to those it offends, and I remind my readers it is only my opinion.

I think my church views parishioners as a family or children who need “family rules and mores” to ensure that the transition from letting go of a retired priest to accepting a new priest goes smoothly. I have found that concept somewhat disconcerting because I think it discredits the fact that many of us have enough values, mores, and inherent common sense in our repertoire of personal values to support and nurture a healthy transition without having to have rules mandating our behavior. However,  this morning’s sermon explained  to me another reason for having such a strict policy——it lets the parishioners have enough space and time during the transition for them to incorporate and  manifest what they learned from their previous priest into their own value system and behaviors.  This “growing space” does not offer any threat to the new priest that is coming; instead it sets the stage for independent, “launched adults” to welcome and support the person who will be their new priest. Much like the disciples had to have time to digest and internalize what Jesus had taught them, so, too, do parishioners need time to digest and internalize ideas and concepts taught to them by thier retired priest.

I’ll admit that when our previous priest retired  it did feel a bit like we were being abandoned. However, I realized that the best way to deal with his departure was to develop my own spiritual independence. That is one of the reasons I started writing this blog. I realized I am responsible for my own spiritual growth, and writing this blog has supported the growth of my own spirituality. Hence, “launching through the Holy Spirit” is my way of describing how losing a valued priest  helped emancipate me as a “spiritually young adult” onto the pathway of my own spiritual journey.

I hope all are enjoying this beautiful Spring day. May God bless and keep you.

 

 

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Photo courtesy of K. Farwell

In my pocket are two things: a quote from  Hafiz saying “I have enough of loss, enough of gain; I have my Love, what more can I obtain?” and a coin celebrating  33 years of recovery that reminds me to be true to myself. Today is supposed to be a day of rest between Jesus’ crucifixion and Christ’s resurrection, and I thought my “soul wrestling” was finally ready to rest for a bit.

Then this morning I was confronted with words I did not want to hear, and my “soul wrestling” started all over again. I listened to well-meaning words that made me face my own character defects and unrealistic expectations of fairness that always get me in trouble.  I was reminded rules are needed to set boundaries and those of us in recovery need rules to help us maintain those boundaries.  I was reminded that suffering is meant to bring me closer to Christ and that every day I have a choice to let suffering do that or to let it come between me and Christ.

The dialogue going on in my head is painful. One voice on the committee keeps saying “I understand the issues underlying rules, but God’s people should be trusted to live ethically without having to abide by ‘rules’—-especially when living ‘by the law’ does more harm than good in my opinion.” Another says, “Christ did not always follow rules either.” The recovering alcoholic two year old inside my head chimes in with his two cents worth and urges me to jump up and down, curse, and just have a plain old “temper tantrum.” A still small voice of reason reminds me to “be true to yourself and don’t let your character defects separate you from God’s love.”  And then Hafiz reminds me, “it is all about God’s love. Period. ”

In re-reading the above paragraph the real problem jumps out at me. There is that single letter “I”—— “I” am the problem. I have to admit my own operational definition of “fair” means “my way.” And when things aren’t my way, I don’ like it,  and I get my feelings hurt.  I have a hard time letting that hurt bring me closer to God. And yet, just this morning, I told a group that “atonement” to me means “At One with God’—————–so why is it so hard for me to accept what I consider to be unfair so that I can be “At One” with God?

So,  this pain is my own fault. I need to accept life on life’s terms just as I need to accept the crucifixion on God’s terms. As long as I am connected with God’s love everything else is just “stuff.” I can choose to “lounge on the pity pot. ” I can choose to do something passive aggressive to enlighten authorities about how “stupid”  their rules are. I can choose to pursue a geographical cure from the site of my spiritual dilemma. I can choose to indulge in one or all of my addictions.

But, most importantly, I can choose to be true to myself and stay connected with God’s love. If I allow my character defects of wanting things to be fair (my way) and resenting authority block the current of love that flows between God and I, then I am the one creating emotional upheaval in my soul. I need to stop trying to “obtain” and just stop and appreciate what I have, the love of God, as all I need. Today I choose to stay connected. May God bless and keep you.

 

Now we come to the setting of the sun

Image courtesy of Kathryn Farwell

There is something about Holy Week that has always ranged from mildly uncomfortable to extremely unsettling to me——and that is the direct result of wrestling with my own mind and soul. My instinct is to question how any father could allow his son to die such a painful death. Then I realize we–you, me, and others  are the ones that killed him and keep on killing him with our selfish and cruel actions over and over again. That realization is not pleasant either. I find myself wondering “why?” Sure, I know without death there would be no resurrection and without that miracle many would not accept Christ into their hearts. But couldn’t there have been an easier, more humane way of nurturing our faith?  God is patient, God is kind, God is love. God allows his only son to be crucified and to spend six hours in agony while he slowly dies. And, lastly, God allows his son to feel abandoned.

When I peel away my intellectual resistance to this whole Easter thing I realize it is the parts of me that suffered abuse in childhood and abandonment in adulthood that are really angry at God for letting it happen not only to Jesus but also to me. At the core, my strong reactions to anything, sadly enough,  seem to be “all about me.”

The good news is God is patient with me. He sent me some answers yesterday that I am going to try to share in a way that makes sense. First, I attended a presentation by a motivational speaker that I had not known was going to happen until less than an hour before his speech was given. Some of the answers God sent me were in that man’s story. He told us about being in a near-fatal accident when he was a first year college student and about what has happened to him because of that accident. One of the biggest messages he gave was that the most powerful gift you can give another is the gift of presence. He received emergency care that saved his life. He could not talk or see, had to breathe through a tube, was in traction, could barely move, and the only sensory message he was aware of was periodic intense pain. But the memory, the thing, that stood out to him through all those hours of agony was the hand that would intermittently squeeze his and he would squeeze back as a caring voice said, “I’m here.”

The second answer God sent me yesterday was during  a book study session following centering prayer.  One of the topics discussed was that suffering is a gateway to strengthening our spirituality. It is through being broken and wounded that we are connected to God’s presence. His presence is always there, only sometimes it takes something drastic to get our attention. Leonard Cohen’s  song “Anthem” was discussed in regards to the lyric about cracks letting the light in  meaning that it is through being wounded and/or suffering that cracks occur in our perception so the light of God’s spirit can enter into our awareness.

So, you may be asking, where are your answers in all this? Well, I think God was trying to tell me yesterday that yes the crucifixion was painful, yes it is painful to think about it, and, yes it may involve perceived, but short-lived, abandonment—–but you, Kathy, have to seriously consider this event in your soul at least once a year so you can realize God’s love and presence. You need this painful reality to sink in so you can let the light of his spirit to illuminate your soul. He seems to be telling me I should accept the pain of the crucifixion and move away from “why” to “what are am I going to do about this event. God seems to be reminding me that the alternative is to completely miss the gift/miracle inherent in this event by getting bogged down and stuck in my own insecurities, anger, and judgmental questioning.

I have spent an entire career suggesting people stop asking “why” when they contemplate their own addiction and instead, ask , “what can God and I together do about it?”  Yesterday, God directed me to ask that same question to myself in regards to Holy Week. I heard loud and clear yesterday to stop getting stuck in my judgmental head and start asking “What can God and I do together about this?” I  know now that God doesn’t want me to miss this gift and that he wants me to take this love and share it with others instead of questioning the gift. And the next time I want to cry because of Jesus’ pain and perceived abandonment I am going to replace that image with one of God squeezing Jesus’  hand and saying, “I’m here.” God bless and keep you.

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In this  my last  semester of teaching Psychiatric Nursing since 1983, I periodically find myself occupying a vacant office the university lets me use on the one day I am there teaching part time every week. This past Monday I happened to look up and notice this sign posted on a wall in this office.  It seemed an odd time and place for a profound truth to jump out at me, but it did.  Pondering these words instantaneously placed me on a “gratitude trajectory” that put my life in perspective. It has been filled with all kinds of moments ranging from almost unbearable to magical. Unfortunately, my mind periodically  has a tendency to focus on the negative moments more than the positive moments. The randomly placed push-pins left in the wall reminded me it is my responsibility to notice and collect the moments.

Today, because Spring has finally gotten here, our outdoor moments are much more pleasant than they were a few weeks ago and all this past winter when we experienced much more snow and ice than this region is used to tolerating.  But even those snow and ice-bound days hosted intermittent magical moments. I have found the key, for me,  is pausing from being enmeshed in a “busy body….busy mind” stance for long enough to step out of that box, take a deep breath, and actually give myself time and space to seek out the pleasant moments. The moments are always there; they are only absent in my perception because I fail to notice them.

Just yesterday, as a simple illustration, I found a dead bird on my sidewalk. I started to recoil in distaste, but something reminded me to treat a fellow creature created by God with respect. So I fetched a plastic bag and picked up the dead bird so that I could dispose of it properly. Doing so made me notice it had, by all appearances, experienced a very peaceful death. It looked as if it had just tucked its head in to go to sleep and had, instead, died.  Since I have spent the past couple of weeks contemplating  both death and the dying process, this seemed to be a message from God not to fear death but to embrace it as a natural part of living. I intuitively knew that God had been with this bird at the time of its death, and this reinforced my belief that God is with us through eternity—–including those moments we may not be aware of such as our conception, our growth from an embryo to an infant, our birth, and, yes, what happens to us when we die.

Perhaps it seems a bit odd that a dead bird would have such importance for me, but it did. Several months ago I had a very vivid dream in which a bird identical in appearance to this one flew directly at my “third eye.” In my dream, I was aware we were meant to merge as one being.  However,  I was “startled awake” before the bird made physical or psychic contact with me.  I think God sent me that dream to me so I would notice this bird and its message that death is a part of life that marks our passage into another form of being…..and during that passage, he is in us, with us, and all around us—— as he always is. God is always giving me  the gift of “moments, ” and he is starting to build my acceptance of death as one of those moments. May God bless and keep you.

 

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Image courtesy of Vlado/ FreeDigitalPhotos.net

 

My mind seems to be cluttered this morning with bits and pieces of thought and memory floating around trying to tell me something. I have been “feeling down” because I spent three days watching the aging process slowly robbing  my father of his mind. It hurts to see him struggle to form a single word, a meaningful sentence, or to untangle a splintered memory. Yesterday’s bible readings in church spoke of dry bones and Lazarus being given God’s gift of life. Of course, being in my somewhat befuddled state of mind, I focused my attention on the Lazarus story’s detail about how Lazarus had lain dead for four days and, in his decay process, he had begun to stink. Jesus still had them roll away the stone, commanded him to live, and had them “unbind” him so he could be free of the cloths that bound him.

First, of course, my mind went into a flight of free association and attached the “stink of decay” concept to  the phenomenon of “stinking thinking” we talk about in twelve step recovery.  Stinking thinking is a thinking process that sneaks back up on us in recovery and replaces our new Higher Power directed way of thinking with our old self-will powered thinking . And, yes, if we stay bound up in that morass of self-will our spirits will begin to decay and we will have a spiritual “stench” about ourselves. If we let go of that self-will and allow our Higher Power to once again guide our thinking, we will be freed from the bonds of self-will that were slowing killing us even though we had momentarily escaped our past addictions.

Yesterday a dear friend asked if I was okay. I explained I was caught up in the pain of watching my father lose his mind, and my friend quietly but emphatically informed me, “it could be much worse.” I needed to hear that. I know aging and gradual decay are part of life. Am I so terminally unique that I really think my father and eventually myself should be spared that part of living? God has held my hand through absolutely everything, and he will hold it still as long as I let him. Instead of obsessing about my father’s comment when we parted that “this may be our last hug” I should be grateful that we were given that wonderful hug to hold in our hearts. I should trust God and know that when it is time in his own way he will breathe the breath of life into those he has created so that we  may live once more outside the stench of aging and dying.

And, lastly, I know that one day at a time I can allow God to breathe the breath of life into my being, my experience, and my recovery. Whatever comes my way can be faced in partnership with him. I should stop worrying, grieving, and being afraid. I need to trust God to be there to roll away whatever stone blocks my progress and to un-wrap whatever binds me and keeps me from living a life in partnership with him. May God bless and keep us.

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Image courtesy of Jonathan Fitch,/ FreeDigitalPhotos.net

I read this morning of a woman who tells others “to have enough”—-not to “have a good day” or “God bless you”—-what she gives others is just the wish for them to have enough. Now, being the addictive personality I am, I found that wish a bit hard to comprehend. But I’ve thought a lot about it today, and I realize it is a philosophy I need to adopt. If I realize I have enough, I will stop seeking more. And more. I will change my focus from acquisition of things “outside” myself and focus instead on nurturing that which is already “inside me”—-my inner being which is the soul God gave me.

If I realize I have enough and that I am filled with God’s spirit and love, I won’t always be wanting to “fill” myself with drugs, alcohol, or food. I won’t need to find a “fix” because God created me already “fixed.” All I have to do is realize it, consent, and carry on content with what I have and willing to share it with others so I can  “keep it,” as they say around twelve step tables.

So, for me, I need to answer the question “when is enough, enough?” Each person, unfortunately, or fortunately, needs to find his or her own answer to that question. I didn’t used to perceive enough until I was miserable and doing a nose-dive towards “hitting bottom.” Gratefully, God has taught me in recovery to start realizing I’ve had enough before I get so dangerously close to hitting bottom.

Of course, there are times of suffering and pain that cannot be avoided in this adventure we call life, but I must remind myself I need to experience those times so I won’t take the gifts of life and love God has given me for granted.  I need to be able to appreciate the positive in my life and to realize each moment is for only a moment, this moment. There are no guarantees that anything will be here beyond the present moment. In terms of recovery, I am talking about cultivating an attitude of gratitude. In terms of Ram Dass, I am talking about “Being here Now.”

I seem to be avoiding answering my own question. It is simple, really. Enough is enough as soon as I realize and accept my reality for what it is.  When I consent to letting God be in charge and stop trying to control and fix everything, then I can start to appreciate being in the midst of “enough.” It is a relief really, not trying to always compete, be better, be perfect, be the best, be right. It is liberating to realize I am enough just the way God created me. I don’t have to earn God’s love or God’s gifts. So, my answer is:  today I have enough because God is in me and I am in him. May God bless and keep you.

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Image courtesy of Sailom/ FreeDigitalPhotos.net

A couple of days ago I read a meditation about dualistic thinking and how it is a type of “stinking thinking”—–a term used by those in recovery to refer to a way of thinking that creates problems and does not support living in “the solution.” I was reminded how easy it is for our mind to automatically categorize everything we encounter as all “good’ or all “bad.” Living in that way of thinking is like living in a land of black and white images with no color to brighten the landscape or add truth and clarity to our vision. If I am walking into a public building and I have to step over a fecal donation left by a dog I can immediately think “How rude, can’t people have the decency to carry baggies with them and clean up after the dog they are walking?” This judgmental thought keeps me from having a mind open to other interpretations of my reality. Perhaps the fecal donation was left by a stray dog who needs rescued. The latter interpretation leaves my heart open to love and positive action while the first does not.

Okay, I get the picture. However, much as I hate to admit it, insight does not change how my automatic thoughts work. So,  yesterday I tried to notice when my  mind “jumped” to dualistic thinking. The first example I noticed was my reaction to seeing  an American flag left hanging in the cold, wet rain in front of the National Guard building that  I drove by on my way give a friend a ride to church. My mind “jumped” into the adolescent mind set about the proper way to show respect to our country’s flag; I learned in Girl Scouts how to hang the flag, take down the flag, fold the flag, and when not to “hang” the flag. It is not to be hung in the dark or in rain.  Or so my judgmental brain remembers being taught. So, based on something remembered from over fifty years ago that may not still be true, my immediate dualistic thought was “The military should know better! I can’t believe they left the flag out in the rain!”

The second happened when I was at church between Sunday school class and the church service. The priest walked up to me while I was reading book titles in our book case and asked me to grab my purse and said, “come with me.” My dualistic mind jumped to the conclusion that either something really bad had just happened or that I was in trouble. As the moment unfolded, I found out that the truth actually was he wanted to show me the Icon that had mysteriously disappeared had been successfully repaired and replaced, and from the conversation that we had I began to understand and appreciate the time and effort he put in to fixing the Icon. Since I do not have a mind that can fathom such procedures, had I even noticed the Icon being back in its place without it being shown to me, I probably would only have thought “Oh, the icon is back.”

The third happened when I read something last night and began to close my mind to the way I perceive the person about whom I had been reading. This was the most worrisome case of “dualistic thinking” I caught myself in yesterday. I still do not know the true context of this situation, but thanks to prayer and confidential counseling from a friend I am now able to see that dualistic judgmental thinking can block my mind from the truth and keep me from being a channel for God’s love and God’s will.  I need to keep my mind and my heart open so I can discern the truth without judging my fellow humans. Judging others and knowing “absolute truth” are clearly in God’s domain rather than mine.

Enough. May we see today in bright and varied colors and not fall prey to dualistic stinking thinking. God bless and keep you.

Antique heart

Image courtesy of  Serge Bertasius Photography / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Now I know why it is important to keep a disciplined writing schedule. It has been almost two weeks since I last wrote, and I am finding it most difficult to come up with a topic. Needless to say, during this dry spot I have had what I call a “bit of depression.” My sinuses have been fighting this awful “bug” that has been flourishing in this region, and they haven’t “won” the battle yet; however, progress is being made. I have tried not to bury myself in “should be doing” and, instead rested in “just be.” The result has been more self acceptance and less guilt. Guilt has been replaced by limited regret that I am not consenting or surrendering to God’s will and love—–at least not totally. Doing so only at a  “50%” level means the other 50% is being run on “self-will” which can be ruinous.

So far, during this past two weeks self will has let me eat two bags of pistachios, and it has allowed me to stop weighing and measuring what I eat. I can, of course, still consider myself abstinent because I am not eating flour and sugar.  Once again, I am finding that nothing “fills the void”—and nothing really tastes appealing. I know if I go back to “squeaky clean” abstinence by  weighing and measuring the food I eat it will once again taste good. Eating will once again become a pleasurable exercise in mindfulness, and it will be a pleasure to chew each bite mindfully.

Wow! I just got interrupted by a phone call, and when I turned my attention back to the screen, I re-read the above paragraph. It is literally screaming “Half measures availed us nothing!” Obviously, I know what I need to do, and I am close to willing. However, “close to willing” never got me anywhere except closer to “hitting bottom.” I need to stop “counting my yets” and start looking at the reality of what I am doing to myself. I am not allowing God’s love to envelop me, and I am not loving myself or caring for God’s temple as I should be. There is that word “should” again!

I am going to re-direct my thinking this morning from “should” to “let it be.”  Today, “let it be” will mean “let me be willing” and “let God’s love happen.” Each day in recovery is a miracle, and I need to once again be mindfully aware of the miraculous gift God has given me.

Hope all is well with my readers. May God bless and keep you.

courage and believe rocks

Image courtesy of  BJWOK ,/ FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Yesterday, a friend asked me  how to do a 4th step inventory when most of the wrong [in her life] was done by someone else. As far as I know, this was the first time this person had considered applying these steps to her own life. I found myself having real trouble trying to answer that question in a way that made sense and was helpful to someone with little or no exposure to twelve step recovery. Therefore, I am going to try to answer that question more effectively in today’s blog. I obviously need to figure out the answer for myself!

The 4th step involves looking at character defects/shortcomings we recognize in how we relate to ourselves, others, and God.  Then we think about how these got started in our lives, what feelings or emotions seem to be at the root of them, and who or what we resent for the causative incident(s). We try to determine what “drive/defect/feeling” in us was associated with the resented incident/person. We look at the attitudes and behavior patterns that have shaped our lives—–not just our eating, drinking, gambling, etc.

However, when we look at patterns we often realize our own specific addictive behaviors or strongly linked to underlying problematic deep-rooted feelings or needs. We often eat or drink  (etc.) seeking comfort and/or escape from our painful or uncomfortable emotions (fear, anger, distrust, etc.).

A lot of our 4th step inventory is about discovering how we have harmed/hurt ourselves because of all of the above. For many of us, our 5th step “amends” are “living amends” to ourselves accomplished by living according to the guidance of program principles and/or our faith—–the change in our behavior and attitudes demonstrates our transformation/progress in recovery. Sometimes our living amends are the best kind to make to ourselves and others because actions speak louder than words.

It is also important to look at our assets when we take our inventory. Specifically, we can look at the attitudes, emotions, and behaviors that are the opposite of those that are the “defects” we’ve just inventoried. Acknowledging our positive assets—-or our progress towards them—-helps us realize not only the good in our past but the transformation that is taking place in the present as we practice recovery principles.

If we find ourselves wondering, “What do I do when it is others that need to make amends to me?” we are taking someone else’s inventory other than our own. The key is looking at our own lives from a holistic perspective and not just focusing on a specific action like how I hurt someone when I over ate or drank too much. That can be included in our inventory, of course, but hopefully, a holistic, in-depth inventory will explore and acknowledge much more. This is important because the drinking, eating, etc. is often a “symptom” of our underlying problem(s), and doing this type of in-depth inventory does a better job of acknowledging and working through the underlying problems.

By the way, these twelve steps are actually a “recipe for living” that can help anyone transform their lives. That is one of the reasons I talked about them at length in today’s blog. For more help understanding what character defects and program principles actually are, I would refer my readers to the 2nd edition of “Drop the Rock: Removing Character Defects” by  Bill P. Todd W. Sara S. and published in 2005 by Hazelden. God bless and keep you.