Tough Times; Times of Growth

I brought a friend home from the hospital yesterday. She had the fourth operation on her back to replace a spinal disc with one made of titanium. It’s part of a series of replaced discs that will allow her to continue to live independently and pain free–once it heals. Until then she will have to go through a lot of pain and three months of recuperation. However, had she not had the operation, she would go through many more months of pain and suffering with no guarantee that the spinal column might be completely severed by the shifting vertebrae. Kind of a hard spot to be in, especially having gone through it three times previously.

A few things come to mind. First, sometimes we have to endure a great deal in order to make it through the present challenge. It may be physical, mental or spiritual pain that we are enduring. And like any change, it brings discomfort and few of us relish being uncomfortable. But we must keep our eyes on the end result to help us keep our sanity. If all goes well, in three months, or however long this challenge should last, life will establish a new normal. We’ll find a new comfort zone and hopefully the pain we experienced will be a memory and we can be grateful to have lived through the experience.

Second, I am struck by the difficulty in accepting help when we are so used to being independent. I was thinking this morning that we all know that infants and elderly need our assistance. But I think that we must remember that all of us are dependent on everyone else. I can’t do it all, and I never could. I rely on the ‘kindness of strangers,’ as well as that of my family and friends. I needed people when I was going through difficult times in my life and I need them to share the wonderful times as well. When we share our interdependence, we help to balance out the good times with the challenging ones. I willingly assist you and later you assist me.

Third, no one likes to give up control. Placing ourselves into the power of another is very difficult for many people. I want to control what is happening to me. Yet, there are times, such as going under the scalpel of a surgeon, or getting strapped into the seat of a jet that we do give up complete control of our lives. But we usually don’t do this on a whim. The people upon whom we rely are trained professionals. There still are risks, but they are minimized by their experience.

All of these three: passing through an ordeal, relying on others and giving up control all are part of trust: trusting others, trusting the process and trusting life. And they have to do with taming our egos as well. ‘I can’t do it all and I never could,’ is a good lesson to practice once in a while. It is also a lesson that we survive everything that comes our way. It may not be the manner in the which we had envisioned or in the time frame that we were hoping for, but we get through it. I am reminded of the character in the movie ‘The Most Exotic Marigold Hotel’ in which the young entrepreneur says “It will all work out in the end. If it’s not working out, it’s not the end.” Whatever it is, you will make it through.

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Connecting the Dots

“You can’t connect the dots looking forward. You can only connect them looking backwards. So you have to trust that the dots will somehow connect in your future. You have to trust in something — your gut, destiny, life, karma, whatever. This approach has never let me down, and it has made all the difference in my life.”  Steve Jobs

Remember when we were kids we were given a colouring book with numbered dots. We had to connect those dots by following the numbers and create a picture. Sometimes we could sort of figure out what it was supposed to be and sometimes it wasn’t until the final connection was made that we could see the result. In life we are given just the dots and they aren’t numbered. How do I know which dot is next in the sequence? I don’t. I have to trust the process, trust in something other than me that is guiding me to what I need to connect to next.

Retrospectively I can see where I have gone. If I had had a choice, I would have preferred not to have gone through some of the things in my past, before and after recovery. A few things that happened I never want to repeat and wouldn’t wish upon anyone. However, all of them, yes ALL, have brought me to this point that I am at right now and I am very happy.

Step Four allowed me to look back on my life to see the picture created by the dots that had already been connected. I saw the good, the bad and the really ugly. My sponsor helped me to see how everything that happened was part of what had brought me to that moment. Today,  if something comes along that throws a wrench into my idea or plan for the future? I’ve learned to trust the process. I trust that while I might not recognize where I am or know the direction I’m headed, I know that I will eventually see how this moment fits into place.

Sometimes I’m certain that I am sure ‘have’ to go in a certain direction, but I can’t find the dot I think I’m suppose to connect to. Am I projecting ahead, trying to force things to be as ‘I’ think they should be? Perhaps I need to trust life and trust that the next dot will make itself known. If I can look back and see how everything fit together, then why would I doubt tomorrow; things in my life will continue to fall into place when and as they should.

Trust your recovery. Trust the proven tools you have been given in your program. Put your faith in something other than yourself. Know that the dots will connect to the final mosaic of life and it will be a beautiful work of art.

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Whose Will?

In the Eleventh Step of recovery we are asked to pray to know what our Higher Power’s will is for us and the power to carry it out. Tall order!

I like to use the metaphor of the bus.  My purpose here on Earth is to ride the bus. I believe that what my HP really wants for me is to enjoy the view out of the window and the other passengers that are sitting around me. We can learn from each other, chat about what is happening on the bus and what we’re seeing outside. We can even move seats once in a while for a new perspective and new seat mates. My Higher Power has it all under control.

Problems come, however, when I think that I’m capable of doing other things.  I should be able to drive the bus. Heck, it doesn’t look that hard. So I slip into the driver seat and take over. Oh, I might do okay for the first bit, but the real test comes when the road gets rough, full of curves and blind corners. I don’t have the experience for that. Perhaps I think that I should be the one taking the tickets. Maybe I think I would be better at choosing the route the bus is taking, or the timetable. You had better hope nothing happens to the engine when I start to think that it would be my job to fix the bus. It’s my ego that says I don’t need a driver or a mechanic, but do I really know the difference between a tie rod and and tire iron?

red and white bus toyWe can all point to occasions when we surrendered, left things in our HP’s control and it went far better than we could ever have imagined. When I try to impose my ‘will’, my ‘control’ upon things, that’s when the bus starts to slide toward the shoulder of the road.

So what’s my Higher Power’s will for me?

I believe that my purpose in life is to become the best Tim I can possibly be. When I need to make a decision, I can look out the bus window and allow it all to flow through my senses. It’s then that inspiration might hit. Or I can chat with my seatmates to come up with an solution. I can change my seat for a different perspective of the landscape and other riders. I can even go talk to the bus driver and ask where we are headed. What I don’t want to do is think that I can do it all on my own. I’ve learned that trying to control everything doesn’t work. Doing that got me dropped off at the bus stop in front of a meeting hall.

This is a metaphor that works for me. When I am uncertain of what I should do in a situation I ask myself, am I riding the bus or am I driving the bus? Am I trying to control something outside of me? Is my ego involved? Is this the road heading to the best person I can be? And if I’m still unsure, I can always ask those around me as well as the driver. Usually the answer is for me to sit down, look out the window, and enjoy the view because my Higher Power is looking after the rest.