““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 life became” – Quotes in this color are from Codependence: The Dance of Wounded Souls by Robert Burney
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 of acceptance.
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.”
This article which I wrote in 2002 is the second of a 9 article series on The Serenity Prayer. The first article is Discernment – The Wisdom to Know the Difference in Serenity Prayer
The example in this article about practicing serenity in airports is very timely with the Holiday Season approaching and many of you traveling during the Christmas Season – remember that Acceptance is the key to your “problems” today. Serenity and Expectations – intimately interrelated