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.

group of people holding hands together

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You Have the Power!

“Don’t get upset with people and situations because both are powerless without your reaction.”

I came across this quote this week. There was a picture of Buddha with it, but I have no idea if it is a Buddhist quote. If I don’t react to things around me, then I don’t give them my power. It goes along with acceptance. It about how I invest my emotions in the things that around me. When I accept something, I am saying that it is. Nothing more. I am not saying that I like it. I am not saying that it needs to be changed. I am outside of that judgment. It simply is.

My emotional involvement in people or situations will not change anything. Getting angry with another driver for cutting me off will not change anything.  The other guy might not have realized that he did what he did.  He may wonder why some freak in the car behind him is blowing his horn and blinking his lights. He probably can’t hear your shouting and can’t count how many fingers you have pointed into the air. If I accept that the guy cut me off then I am not giving him power, nor am I giving my power to what he did. If I learn to remain calm, and accept, I keep my power and I keep my serenity.

Acceptance does not equal approval.

Acceptance is separate from judgement. I don’t have to like what is happening when I accept it. I am simply acknowledging that it is. I don’t like it when people treat me with disrespect. I don’t like it when I’m cut off in traffic. It bothers me when my efforts go unnoticed or unappreciated. I can still accept that it happened and then make a decision about what to do or not do about it. I don’t have to give away my peace of mind, my serenity when it happens. I have the ability to choose where and how I express my emotions. Another person cannot piss me off unless I let him.

I can’t control people, places or things.

My circle of control extends to about as wide as I can stretch my arms and sometimes it contracts about as far as the tip of my nose. If I am angry or upset or frustrated about something, it is because I have allowed that to happen. You didn’t do it to me, the event didn’t do it to me. I did it to me. That’s a hard pill to swallow at first. My immediate reaction is to lash out. But like everything else, it is a process. First I see that I lashed out when something happened. With some more practice I then recognize it when I am in the midst of it and finally I stop myself before I lash out at someone because I do not want to give my power to them. It’s not a straight line process either; sometimes I am in acceptance and sometimes I jump right to anger.

“…Sometimes quickly, sometimes slowly…” Working on our reactions and turning them into responses that are thought out takes time. Trust the process. Trust your ability to make a change. Nothing is impossible.



Life on Life’s Terms

I like to read recovery stories and go to speaker meetings where I can hear the tales of fellow addicts and their journey to and in recovery.  One of my favourite stories, and I know I’m not alone, is the story “Acceptance is the Answer” found in the book Alcoholics Anonymous. It tells the tale of a doctor who drinks and prescribes himself drugs and almost destroys himself. He talks about the importance of acceptance of himself, his situation and his addiction as the answer to his problems. I’ve added a link below if you would like to read this story.

One of the things I’ve come to realize in the last week or so is that ‘acceptance’ is 100% or it is nothing. Let me explain. If I accept something, I am in total agreement with it. That doesn’t mean I have to like or love it; I may not. I may not like it, but I accept it. This for me is living life on life’s terms: accepting what is in my life. It’s not arguing with my Higher Power my partner or myself that things should be this way or that way. It is simply saying yes, that is the way it is.

Take this for an example. My car has a flat tire. My refusal to accept this would mean I keep driving and ruin the tire, probably the rim and who knows what else on the car. I have to accept the flat tire and do something about it before I can move on. I get out the jack and spare tire, or I call the auto association, because I know that I need to repair the tire before I can move on. This is acceptance. I take whatever situation I am in, I learn to deal with it and then I can move on.

The other thing that I came realized this past week is that if I have anything less than 100% acceptance, I am in resistance and fighting against what is. If I don’t completely accept the situation as it is, I am resisting it and as I’ve learned resistance is futile.  What I resist will persist. With the tire example, I can choose not to accept it, but the tire won’t change itself. I can blame the car, or the road, the last person who drove it. I can lament that I didn’t put the jack in the car or call all of my friends and complain about my flat tire…and I still have a flat tire. Even if I drive slowly, I will damage the tire. I am resisting and not accepting the situation as it is.

Once I accept and change the tire, the problem goes away, it no longer persists. It’s being an active participant in my life and not passively letting things happen to me. Living life on life’s terms doesn’t mean sitting back and lamenting. It is action. It is accepting what is and working towards a resolution.


This is a link to reading this classic story Acceptance is the Answer. Click on the link and a PDF file will open. Scroll down the “Personal Stories Part II ‘They Stopped in Time’. The story “Acceptance is the Answer” is on page 407.