I speak up for myself now. Well, sometimes. As long as it doesn’t rock the boat TOO much. As long as the person I have conflict with won’t stop loving me because I’m mad. Only when I’ve rolled the issue OVER and OVER I’m my brain ad nauseam and have decided I’m with a safe person. Only after I’ve played out the worst case scenario in my head, mini-grieved all possible outcomes. At times, after I speak my peace, (because I’ve learned my peace has value, too,) I will fret and worry that I’ve upset someone. Doesn’t matter if it concerns life events or little frustrations, I speak. Even if it’s a whisper, I speak. Even though I know assertion-guilt will try to make me feel like a bad human. I’m starting – with fits and stops – to say when I’ve been hurt or bothered, even though I’ve been a people pleaser all my life. So… No, You cannot talk to me like that. You may not treat me like that. Little Me had no say, but I’m re-parenting her, you see. I’m protecting her. I care what she has to say. Her feelings, views, and passions have value. I’m teaching her things that I (somehow managed) to teach my own daughters. They speak up for themselves, without fear of abandonment, because they know they’re safe. And Little Me is safe now too, finding her voice and using it. Progress, not perfection.
“Broken lines, broken strings, Broken threads, broken springs, Broken idols, broken heads, People sleeping in broken beds Ain’t no use jiving Ain’t no use joking Everything is broken” –
-The Kenny Wayne Shepherd Band
Our microwave finally pooped out. After 18+ years, it’s dead. Our stove isn’t heating up like it should. I have to be SO careful about what I eat and this makes food preparation that much more difficult.
We have had to replace our fridge / washer / dryer in just the past couple of years because they all died at once. We have three cars, only one with working A/C, and she had 200,000+ miles on it. We love that car. She’s a real trooper.
And I get the feeling like that’s ALL of us right now: Look at us all – an army of badasses. Damn if we aren’t all freaking troopers for making it through whatever shitshow the word is currently.
And all of that wouldn’t be so bad if I wasn’t broken too. Because today I am feeling very, very broken. Like literally all of my joints feel especially loose and painful. If my Earth Suit did it’s JOB to keep things stable and in place, that would be amazing.
I dislocated my thumb again today opening a Topo Chico, for example. What a stupid injury. My injuries are never, “She jumped out of a plane and survived!,” or “she went water skiing and now she is a human pretzel.” No. More like… the time I stepped out of the bed to go pee in the middle of the night and just torqued my right ankle, which snapped the bone. Then I walked around on that broken ankle for 11 days, too stubborn to get it checked out. By the time I got an X-ray, it was broken in TWO places, and surgical pins, plates, and rods were out in. But I digress.
The POINT is I can injure myself in the most asinine ways. Most things in life are made up of broken parts, and I’m eternally trying to learn how to process that reality.
We are all just walking eachother home,” is my new favorite observation.
Now whether we get “home” in a rust bucket (aka my actual body), or a well-appointed, nice and reliable sedan – a nice, tidy life that turned out great because you did “all the right things,” well, that’s for serendipity to hash out.
And that’s the cosmic irony, isn’t it? If our lives were neat and tidy, we’d have no real need for each other. We are only really here to learn how to love and accept love in return.
We need doctors who will help us manage our pain. We need microwave manufacturers. And we need friends, because there are 7 billion people on this planet and not one of us knows what we are doing. Not ONE. But maybe a few can show you the route home, and you can – in kind – do the same.
So, lean on to eachother like your life depends on it, because it does. Let’s spiritually exit the machinery that cranks out unrealistic expectations, and walk arm-in-arm, until we’re “home.”
I taught Bible studies, and taught Vacation Bible School. I helped launch a couple of Christian-based recovery groups in the city. I was on the Prayer Team, the Greeting Team, the Hospitality team.
Ten years ago, I started this blog – TheBeggarsBakery.com – with stars in my eyes and a mission on my heart. I was truly so serious about it; so sure that it was my “ministry.” It was BEFORE.
Before pain was the order of the day, every day.
Before the novelty of thinking I was a recovery expert wore off like Novocain after a root canal.
Before I realized I am not in control (at ALL.)
Before I knew there were so many shades of gray.
Before my grown children gave me gray hair.
And before churches tried to cast demons out of me, for being SICK.
I haven’t been comfortable with the blog’s name for a few years now. I don’t want people to think they have to be broken and begging for Divine Love. Although I wanted to tell others that my soul found “bread” in God, it sounded more and more dualistic and exclusive. As I learned I’m not a fundamentally flawed person desperate for approval – divine or otherwise – I didn’t want my writing to impress upon anyone else that THEY must be broken too.
My intentions were altruistic, I promise. There was a fire in my belly. And there is still. It was a controlled burn for many years, now it’s a brushfire – raging with the expectation that new growth, all green and fresh, will come up underneath. I’m counting on living to witness a full forest come up from underneath this burnt ground.
The Beggars Bakery fit me ten years ago. I felt like a beggar, frankly. My life was feeling like I was a mistake that just squeaked by. I was striving, striving, striving for approval – God’s, my husband’s, my family’s, my friends’. If I could JUST be a successful “ministry,” and maybe make a living at writing?
Alas, neither really panned out as I’d hoped. Especially not the “make a living” part. But with renewed strength, I can see my focus was wrong. I zigged when I should have zagged. I proselytized when I should have just loved.
I am already enough. So are you.
And I retained a love of Jesus but developed a disdain for the evangelical church. And once you see the Universal Christ, you cannot “unsee” him; it really screwed with my oh-so-sure faith walk but opened up something in me I denied for decades.
Don’t get me wrong: I will not start all over here. Because it’s like a spiritual time capsule, and each stage had merit. I don’t want to forget where I came from – there was much JOY! But I want to get to where I’m going, and that requires a little reinvention.
As a follower of Christ, as an empowered female in a new world, and as a mystic.
My very favorite song is Van Morrison’s “Into the Mystic.” Every single word and note hits me RIGHT in the feels. The MYSTIC. When did we decide – as followers of Christ – to give our Mysticism away? When I was striving to earn God’s approval, I’d skip the word “mystic” when singing it aloud. WHAT? Was my faith so fragile as to offend God with a lyric? Oh my GOD, the LEGALITY.
It was the mere connotation that something mystical could be afoot in my staid, steady, the-Bible-is-literal manner that made the song scandalous. I sing “Into the Mystic” out loud now, and I know God is okay with it.
Just like yoga,
And some Eastern beliefs I was taught to fear.
Just like accepting other humans – fallible and seeking – for their truest selves.
Just like being okay with people just the way they are,
And giving up my staunch nationalistic views for one that assumes ALL are loved and valued by our Creator…
And being authentic, even when it means making a fool of myself.
It’s okay to do so. It’s imperative to growth, especially when the world is on fire.
I’m not sure what direction this blog will go.
I plan on writing about my faith reconstruction journey – all of it. The Fall. The burn. The sweet, fragrant undergrowth of new life shooting forth.
I will still write about recovery from alcoholism – it’s part and parcel of who I am.
I will probably vent frustrations about my worries and keep a safe place to express my anxiety.
So, if you’ve stuck by me all these years and faithfully read all of my work – I thank you from the bottom of my heart. Please consider staying with me. I’ve come to appreciate each of you so much.
I want to rock your gypsy soul Just like way back in the days of old,
With stars in my eyes and love in my heart,
Without a superhero cape, but with arms wide open,
The legendary Hubble Space Telescope, operated by NASA and the European Space Agency (ESA) captured a dazzling snapshot of a large galaxy pulling cosmic material away from a smaller galaxy, and my mental health is HERE for it.
It is helping my mental health because I am fascinated with all things galactic, and every time a new image is captured by Hubble, my worries seem to shrink. It’s impossible to be in wonder and see while nursing a grudge or fussing over a human problem.
Not that our problems aren’t real. Or important. They ARE important, even to the Being who came up with the crazy idea of eternity.
Infinite ness is not a concept we default to. We cannot wrap our minds around the concept of endlessness. But in a world where our troubles seem the most infinite thing we know, Hubble reminds me to zoom out.
Yes, I am hurting. My body aches. My heart grieves. The pandemic looms. The world’s a hot mess express.
Would you look at this economy?
This sociological crap-shoot we are calling “life.”
We become Chicken Littles, running in circles exclaiming, “the sky is falling! The sky is falling!” and then we like to proclaim anyone who doesn’t join our panic is Pollyanna about reality.
Okay…but ZOOM OUT. Pan the picture wider, then wider still.
Imagine yourself and all your pain, a tiny speck on a giant blue marble – just one of billions. Imagine this as an image on your iPhone, in hi-def, as most problems seem.
Now imagine that the same Creator who spins planets in orbit cares intimately about what you do. He cares about you not only as a marble-dweller, but a miracle of cells and thoughts and feelings.
Imagine that this Being of Love is intimate with your every heartache and just as concerned about the state of you as He is the state of the Multiverse.
Just zoom out of the picture, wider and wider. See how perfect the orbits are? Check out those stars. Wow! Each and every one a sun. Each and every molecule of the cosmos is worshipping just by existing.
Existence is worship.
We cannot reach the end of it, just like we cannot reach yet end of Love itself.
Just zoom out. It’s going to be okay.
God is zooming in on us. Let your heart marinate in the magnificence of this concept – a Love so endless, Hubble will never reach it.
This time of year makes me reflect on the mind-blowing kindness and generosity that me and my little family were shown back in the day.
You see, this picture brings back SO many memories…some of them heart-wrenching.
They say a picture is worth a thousand words, but for me, this one is worth a million. I hadn’t seen it in forever, but I remember taking it like it was yesterday!
I had just left the girls’ father and we were legally separated. The girls and I had nowhere to go, so a dear friend gave me a reduced rate to stay temporarily in Atlantic Towers (such a blessing.)
This photo was taken there. I loved that it had bright pink walls. I told the girls it was because we were so full of GIRL POWER, they painted them pink special for us.
At the time, I had a restraining order out on my ex (so you KNOW that added stress) and no money. I was receiving NO help. And I mean, NO help. Not even from my own family members. That was a brutal learning curve.
I went from one part time job to four jobs to feed my kids. I wrote freelance, worked for a realtor, became the receptionist at another company, and cleaned motel rooms on the weekends. When I was with my babies I worried how I would take care of them myself. When I was at work, I missed them terribly. Mommy guilt was only eclipsed by pure fear.
I had a new sobriety that was only three or four years old, and I was DESPERATELY trying to keep it and not start drinking again. (I did keep my date of sobriety which is Jan. 3, 2001.)
I’d left everything behind but a few sticks of furniture, the clothes on our backs, and the kids’ Barbie toys. Not much else.
I was truly starting over after 14 years in a bad marriage and struggling not to drink, after nearly killing myself with alcohol only a few short years prior.
My girls look happy in this picture, but it was a rough time for them too. My goal was to shield them from my own grown-up problems, and make it an adventure of sorts. They were the lights of my life then. (And they still are.)
At the time, I could not imagine how I would get through that difficult season. I lost 80 pounds from stress. I had been a stay at home mom all my daughters lives, and had ZERO IDEA what would happen to all of us.
But then a miracle happened…and the venue for said miracle was the Carolina and Kure Beach communities, whose members rallied around us that year in the early 2000’s.
And I mean they rallied!
It was Christmas time, which made everything harder, but the local fire station gifted my girls with toys from Santa. A dear friend bought them bicycles!. One friend kept my girls in donated clothes for a year. One amazing friend invited us over for Thanksgiving and Christmas and welcomed us as if we were all true family. Another helped us out with food for a while. One watched my girls for me when I worked. And another helped me keep the heat on one particularly cold month.) One practically adopted me and treated me like a daughter, and does still.
I did nothing to deserve any of that, but the magnitude of blessing still floors me.
I wasn’t FROM there, you see. I wasn’t a “local;” But they MADE me a local through kindness. Dozens of (then) strangers came out of the woodwork. I could do nothing for any of them, nothing. They just poured forth things we needed, acts of friendship, and so much support, and love. I’m happy to report I cherish them still today.
Meanwhile, I learned how to work my ass off and provide for my kids. I worked on my own issues. I put up strong, necessary boundaries. I learned how to forgive myself. And I managed to stay sober, all glory to God!)
So from one old snapshot for TBT came a tidal wave of gratitude today,, and with that, this very wordy, rambling post.
Now when I look at these 9 and 12 year old faces in the photo, I can rest easy knowing that these two grew up to be beautiful, funny, kind-hearted people. They grew up awesome, and the dark times only grew us closer.
They are 26 and 29 now. My world.
Boy, I wish I had truly trusted God when I was going through it! But my points are twofold:
When at your absolute darkest, keep going kiddo. You CAN do hard things, I promise. You can, and you will. And if you lean into Source, you’ll FLOURISH.
Community is so important. We are all made designed to need each other. Every single member of every community is precious.
And all you single mamas going through the midst of a nightmare like this, I promise it’s true for YOU and your babies, too!
These days I have new struggles, but I try to pay forward any and every kindness shown to me. I try to diversify my kindness portfolio, as it were. Love on everyone, I’m every circumstance. I fall short a LOT, but oh the joy in paying kindness forward!
But it seems important to remind you, if you’re hurting:
The kids really WILL be ok. You ARE stronger than you think. It’s OKAY to ask for help. It’s EVEN OKAY to accept help! God has not abandoned you There are wonderful, amazing things awaiting you in the other side of the mess you’re going through.
This morning, I woke up early in the great state of Georgia.
Two of my dearest friends in the world accompanied me to a conference that addressed a faith reconstructed. It was incredible. The teachings were what so many evangelicals (and I was one for most of my life,) would consider utterly scandalous.
Y’all, LOVE that rich, pure, and bounteous SHOULD be scandalous. The most passionate love stories always are.
I didn’t move for a while when I woke, because I simply couldn’t. (If you don’t already think I’m nutty, you might now. And I’m okay with that)
I was pinned in place but this momentous, ridiculously extravagant sensation of love.
It was so thick in the air, it felt womb-ish, like a swim in calm ocean, flowing and bobbing. Or being swaddled like a baby, feeling nurtured and safe.
I didn’t fight it, like so tend to do. I didn’t negate it with my usual self-loathing talk. I always feel “powerless” against my own thoughts. My insecurities are members of a terrorist organization of sorts. During my (literal) “come to Jesus,” I discovered that I don’t have to negotiate with terrorists. I get to choose.
No, instead of fighting and fretting against the swell of love, I just rested in it. It was overwhelming, glorious, and unlike any experience I’ve had in a half-century of Christian fundamentalism. There was not even a trace of shame involved. I was fresh out of bothers for a spell.
At some point, I “feel” God say something to the effect of: “Please don’t talk and think mean thoughts about my little girl. I love her so much.” Wait WHAT!?
“You heard,” says gentle but firm Holy Spirit, her voice strong and convincing.
That little girl is me.
This weekend was like a speed-dating session with my true identity. Lots of uncomfortable moments. Lots of connecting. Lots of nerves. The result is this radical, rich, ridiculous grace for others.
I MUST share what I experienced in the wee hours of the morning with you. I have to. Because it’s LIFE.
Love is life.
Sometimes the supernatural doesn’t come like a lightning strike, dramatic and jarring. It’s not always signs and wonders that the church proper chases for a dopamine hit and considers evidence of a Being of pure Love.
No, sometimes it’s a soul hug first thing in the morning. Supernatural revelation can be realizing you aren’t a cosmic mistake; that you have belonged to Source since before the formation of the Universe. That He belongs to US. I know it sounds strange. But I’m okay with that too.
I welcome the chance to tell you how incredibly loved you are this day.
I don’t want to convert you.
I have no ulterior motives.
I don’t want to change you.
I have no agenda.
I don’t want to push religiousity. Matter of fact, religion is the whole problem. It has almost nothing to do with the actual Trinity, which invites us to a beautiful dance that includes us all.
And as a result of this Great Forgetting , the church can be stingy with the very thing it’s attempting to sell: Love. Purpose. Being.
This weekend, I feel like I had a heart transplant, and I couldn’t be happier.
My prayer today is that you wrap your arms around yourself and hug. Don’t rush it. Really hug yourself tight. Consider it a hug from me.
And so much better – it will be a hug from Papa God. He is wild about you.
May you come to the overwhelming realization of who you really are, and that the opposite of Love is fear. I learned that I don’t have to rent Fear a room in my head. Evict that sucker.
May your awareness of the supernatural be increased so that you can recognize when God “winks” at you.
May you come to know and (this is the hard part) ACCEPT the TRUTH about your inherent value, which is priceless.
It’s been a long time since I’ve blogged; the longest span of time in the six year history of The Beggar’s Bakery. In the interim, I began another blog, “So She Laughed Anyway,” which takes on issues with a humorous bent. I think I’ve only posted three posts to it. It has been a dry season, writing-wise.
But here in a difficult place, I find myself needing to write again. And I think I need to do so often, as writing things down seems to relocate my thoughts to a better, less scary, neighborhood. The challenge to myself is to write a blog post every day, for 60 days. I am prayerful that God gives me material with which to work, but chances are good some of the posts might be drivel. If I go off the rails, please be patient with me. I will get my mojo back at some point.
What has been happening since last we met? A lot. A whole lot.
Over the past two years especially, my heart has been in religion deconstruction mode. In crisis with my health, I came face to face with the issue of trying to relegate the personal Jesus I know with the dogma of the Church Proper, and Jesus came out on top. I questioned everything I’d ever been taught, took a historical and contextual look at the Bible, and prayed that the very Spirit of God would reveal truth to me. I plan on touching on this process in the days to come. Much like any worthwhile endeavor, the process has not been linear. In reconstructing my entire faith, I feel like I might be able to tell others “where to find bread” again. But it won’t be white-washed and it won’t be fundamentalist Christianity. It will be Truth.
The aforementioned illness is a trifecta of health issues that are slowly causing me to lose mobility, and constantly causing me pain. Every day. Pain, in one form or another. I have Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome, POTs, and Mast Cell Activation Disease, severe and recurrent migraines, along with lots of other disorders and diseases. I just call it “Alphabet Soup Disorder” to save time. Lots of acronyms. Some of my genes are mutated, I am only grateful that neither of my children seems to have inherited these issues.
So, suffice to say, I am home a lot. I am by myself a lot. This necessity has proven to be both a benefit and a curse. It’s a sticky wicket, because the more isolated I become, the more depressed I get, and the more depressed I become, the less I want to physically be with my friends, because sick people can be a real drag.
There are two of me these days. There is the sick me, who seems to be taking over some days. She is whiny, sad, hopeless, and in horrible pain; and there is the REAL me, who loves to laugh, be silly, encourage people, and travel. The real me is clawing her way back, but it seems that each time I gain a little foothold on the side of the wellness cliff, another boulder comes tumbling down. Sounds dramatic, right? Well, it feels dramatic.
It’s been a dramatic year for my family. A very difficult time. Yet I still haven’t taken a drink, and for that I am proud and very grateful.
I’ve begun a new hobby recently that has been a stepping stone to writing again. I’ve discovered abstract art, and the therapy of painting. A pretty good gauge of my mental health is the amount of paint on my person. The days I am up to my elbows in acrylics are the days that I started off sad and scared, and in some degree of physical and mental pain – and ended up creating something colorful that cheers me.
So, I am setting a goal to blog every day for two months, but I’m not going to set it in stone. I am fantastic at setting unrealistic expectations of myself. I’m going to try to write here or at SoSheLaughedAnyway.com each day, even when nothing I have to say is earth-shattering. I need to get back in the habit, even if not one single person reads my stuff.
There will be “brain droppings” (as the late, great George Carlin called random musings) about recovery, chronic illness, spiritual growth, and the general absurdity of life; and literally God only knows what else.
There will be posts with what some might consider controversial subject matter. There will be potty words. There will be transparency about my relationship with God, which looks almost nothing like it used to, but in a good way. There will be randomness.
Oh, so much randomness.
If you’re one of the 1,950 subscribers to The Beggar’s Bakery, I am so grateful for you. Thanks for sticking around. ❤ Please consider following “So She Laughed Anyway” on WordPress as well.
If you’re new, welcome to the jungle!
My goal is simple: Do life honestly, and share the journey.
Sometimes it’s almost unfortunate that our Creator has endowed us with this thing called “free will.”Free will has gotten me into a lot of jams.
God, if you knew me, you totally wouldn’t trust me to me.
You know, the will that keeps telling you that you don’t have a disease called addiction.
That you can stop anytime you want.
That you have a plan and it looks like doing what you’ve always done.
But if nothing changes, nothing changes.
Recovery in real time doesn’t look like a baby-steppable feat, but a free fall. Every single day, I surrender my will to my Father’s, because I know he only has my best interest at heart.
Every single day, I don’t drink today. No matter what happens, I don’t have to take a drink on this very day.
And tomorrow, I will wake up and surrender my free will again, just for tomorrow.
Bite-sized pieces, you see. Bite off enough recovery today to nourish yourself today. Then free fall into the love of a very real Father.
So often we try to do the opposite. Bite off more than we can chew by declaring we can never, ever drink again and poor pitiful us! And we chase it with ‘babystepping’ just to make it through the day.
This is not the life your Father desires for you!
You don’t fail God when you fail, dear one! That’s an old trick of the enemy. He wants you to feel like a failure. Don’t give that rat bastard the pleasure.
Instead, surround yourself with other people whose free wills are also prone to malfunction. Find as many as you can and watch what they do to just NOT drink. Take what you need and leave the rest, as they say in the Rooms.
Here’s the thing – God totally does know you. He isn’t tolerating you and your janky free will. He is madly and passionately in love with you, in all of your jankyness. He gave us free will so that when we choose to receive His love, it comes from us mind, body, and soul.
Be still and trust in His perfect will for you….
That He has only your best interest at heart.
That He knows you intimately and loves the bejeebers out of you JUST AS YOU ARE.
That He has the most amazing adventures for you to enjoy, and to enjoy SOBER so that you can be mindful of the miracles as they unfold.
If you can’t be still and know that He is God, be mad that He is God. Let Him know that you relinquish trying to push Him out of a job, and if you can manage it, surrender your will to Him.
You’ve got this, daughter of the Most High, because He has YOU.
“Lighthouses don’t go running all over an island looking for boats to save; they just stand there shining.” – Anne Lamott
By: Jana Greene
This planet is a scary place to be stationed for the duration of our earthly lives, isn’t it? It is full of manifest proof that people are completely whack. Especially in this political season, so rife with corruption and spite and division. I quite fancy the bumper sticker I saw the other day that simply says, “GIANT METEOR 2016” and in small print “Just end it already.”
In my flesh, I’m pretty sure that a giant meteor is the best contender, if for no other reason that it would at least be a quick death, and not a slow-burn of horror that might be a Hillary Clinton or Donald Trump presidency.
Surely God is avoiding those two candidates like the plague. Surely, God is a nice libertarian, right?
Be a light, I keep telling myself. Enough people are bitching about the election. Bitching about the state of the world is kind of a specialty of mine, because I feel so STRONGLY about things that I often work myself into a Chicken Little-style frenzy of running in circles yelling THE SKY IS FALLING! THE SKY IS FALLING!
In my flesh, I’m pretty sure we are politically doomed. Yet even as bits of sky are raining down, my supernatural spirit knows God will work all things to the good.
(God can even use Hillary and Trump somehow. THAT’S how powerful our God is, people.)
God is in this place, in this time. He isn’t in hiding. Contrary to many believers’ cries that God is so fed up with this country, he has left ‘Murica altogether. If that were true, indeed all hope would be lost.
But hope isn’t lost. Not all of it, anyway.
Christians especially love to put demographics of people into little boxes, so that we can give ‘those people’ wide berth. There are many, many believers who think that God would never be present in unholy places – the back alleys. The venues of ill repute.
The campaign trail (*shudder*)
But that’s just not true. I know this because Jesus entered into darkness when he signed up for this Earth gig. He never said, “Ew, I can’t go THERE with THEM.”
He entered into darkness so that every one of us has the opportunity to walk in the light. Because of that, I don’t have to fear the dark (I don’t HAVE to, but sometimes I still do…its a work in progress!)
One tiny light vanquishes darkness; it doesn’t have to be a torch or an incandescent bulb. It just has to be willing to be lit – accepting Christ and trusting that he is still on the throne no matter who is in the White House.
What to DO when you feel like you are caught between the devil and the deep blue sea? Stand there and be a lighthouse, of course.
Here is what I believe:
God is in me, and he is in you.
He is faithful and steadfast (no meteor required).
He has a plan, even when all evidence points to the contrary.
Plot twists are kind of his specialty.
He is not deterred by people, places and things.
He is only ever good at heart.
Because God is love, anywhere there is love, there God is.
God bless America. And may he bless us, every one.
I once sat in on a Dialectical Behavioral Therapy class under a Super Zen Therapist, and let me just say out of the gate, it was FASCINATING. I cannot even begin to touch on all the things I learned (and have on occasion, even practiced) but seriously, folks. If you ever have the opportunity to explore this therapy, I highly recommend it.
The term “dialectical” means a synthesis or integration of opposites. The primary dialectic within DBT is between the seemingly opposite strategies of acceptance and change.
I love the premise, and the belief that OK, I feel this way, but I don’t have to. I can feel THAT way. Life is nothing if not a big, fat paradox on so many levels. I will take all the help I can get! I’m still about 95% emotion-driven, but hey – that’s a 5% improvement (and ‘progress, not perfection,’ right?)
About halfway through the course, though, we came to this one sentence in the teaching, and my spiritual breaks screeched to so such a sudden halt that it could have propelled me right out of the classroom and back into my AllTheFeels way of coping with everything.
That sentence was this:
Assume that everyone is doing the best they can at any given time.
Ok, hold up. HOLD UP!
I KNOW that’s not true in certain instances. For instance, when I visit my children in their homes and they are not super nice and tidy, I KNOW for a fact that they are not doing the best they can. I taught them, so obviously I’m calling BULLSH*T on this.
And what about other people, who have – and are actively – hurting me by making stupid decisions? You are telling me that the person/people who have (to my mind) driven me to require therapy are doing the best they can? I have to ACCEPT that?
“No, you can accept it or not. Is not accepting it working for you?” Says Super Zen Therapist.
Here’s what I’m still learning, and what is helping me oil those spiritual breaks and get them rolling in a forward-moving direction again….
You cannot keep a handle on another person’s issue. You simply cannot.
I came up with a dorky little rhyme to help me remember this, and I’ve probably said it to myself several thousand times (especially when the girls were teens):
It’s not your decision to make, nor your action to take.
You can die trying. You can contortionist yourself into all kinds of positions that only end up making you sore and tired. The stress will kill you, I’m not even kidding.
But that’s what happens when you assume that another person is not even TRYING, and you take it personal.
It’s not personal. That person is learning and morphing and all of your hand-wringing and brow-beating will not another minute add to your relationship life, but may well shorten it.
I don’t have to go back that far in my own history to recognize the power of this principal.
When I was an active alcoholic, I wanted to be better for my children. Even as intimate as the mother/child connection was, I didn’t always get it right! I had to learn and do, stop and lurch forward. Lather, rinse, repeat.
My process spilled over to them, but it was never meant to be personal.
I was doing the best I could at the moment, I swear to you. I did the best I could until I could do better. I did better when I surrounded myself with people who were doing better and whose love for me was not contingent on my doing better.
It will behoove YOUR state of mind to believe that the person most getting on your nerves is doing their best in this moment, with their particular life experience.
(And when I really stop to consider it, even the example of my kids and their tendencies NOT to be neat freaks, It was I who cleaned their rooms for ALL of their lives when they lived at home, because in some twisted way, I was making up for lost ‘drunk’ time as a mommy. They may well BE doing the best they know how in this moment. Because something is important to me, doesn’t mean its the only ‘right’ way (But that’s a subject for another therapy session….)
What about the big things?
If someone else’s life choices are spilling over on you and your heart is broken? Consider that they are doing their best. Go one further, even. Pray for them and believe for resolution to their situation. Petition God and plead your case, and then release.
It’s not your decision to make, nor your action to take.
You cannot grasp it because you aren’t SUPPOSED to grasp it.
You think holding on to it is helping, but it won’t be under your control.
You cannot drop it until you drop your Very Slippery Assumption and use both arms instead to embrace the person driving you completely crazy.
“I don’t believe in God. I know God! Once you know someone, believing is no longer a concern.” — Wm. Paul Young (Eve: A Novel)
I once wrote a blog post about the disservice atheists do to children in persuading them that there is no God. Sure enough, I received a comment from a fellow blogger and devout atheist (if you can be such a thing) chastising me for perpetuating a myth.