And the Wisdom to Know the Difference

“Most of Jesus’ teachings are completely incomprehensible from a first-half-of-life perspective.”

 

Richard Rohr

In the first half of my life, I bristled whenever I heard The Serenity Prayer.

Niebuhr Serenity Prayer

Richard-Rohr_home-viewRohr points out that in the first-half-of-life, we have other developmental tasks to attend to and thus are unable to surrender and let go of the control we think we have to have to establish ourselves in life. (finding a spouse/job, making a name for ourselves, accumulating possessions) He also points out that we eventually have to let go so we can fall into our True Self–the best part of us that is always there but who we aren’t yet ready to meet.

I write in my memoir, A Long Awakening to Grace, about my experience of learning to let go and the awakening to grace that came when I truly surrendered. I was forty-two when I embarked on the path of letting go and fifty-seven when I awakened. It is embarrassing to admit that it took fifteen years. It is an indication of how deeply entrenched my illusion of control was. Today I understand that holding onto this illusion for so long has its roots in the inattention and negligence of my childhood. But there came a time in my life when this coping mechanism no longer worked. I needed a new strategy to survive.

My experience in the second-half-of-life is that surrendering is an on-going process. It is something I find myself needing to do over and over. When I am under stress, as I have been these past few weeks dealing with my daughter’s health crisis, I revert back to trying to seize control. Before long, the toll it takes on me and on my daughter finally wakes me up again to my need to let go and surrender.

Last evening I pondered this. Yesterday, when the home healthcare nurse heard crackles while listening to Nicole’s lungs, I pointed out that she hasn’t been using her spirometer as often as has been recommended. The nurse empathized with Nicole about people being on her case. This morning during her occupational therapist’s  (OT) visit, her oxygen level was low. It was recommended that when she first gets up in the morning, she may need to increase her level from one to two liters.

incentive-spirometer

To me, that means we are going backwards. Rehab had hoped she would be off oxygen during the day before she left their facility. They got her down to one liter. Now, it is needing to be increased for at least part of the day. I gave my daughter a little tough love this morning while in her presence I had a conversation with her OT about my caregiver role.

I asked, “How should I respond to this? Do I need to harangue her (control…stress on our relationship) OR do I need to accept that it isn’t important to my daughter to increase her chances of living longer by doing all that she can to strengthen her lungs which her disease is in the process of weakening.

The questions I ponder are: Do I need to accept that living longer isn’t her primary motivation? Do I need to let go? Do I need to surrender to the possibility I might outlive her? In the bigger picture, would that be a better outcome? I am her only family and her only support. How do I practice taking care of  myself as I experience the pain of watching her make self-destructive choices and the chaos of another possible healthcare crisis?

At forty-two, detaching with love became my challenge. Between forty-two and fifty-seven, I practiced disengaging from the chaos surrounding me and wasn’t always sure I was doing it with love. At fifty-seven, my most spiritual experience in life came when I succeeded in letting go with love and surrendering to a higher will. The gift of grace received at that time changed my life.

At almost seventy-four, I once again struggle with what actions and attitudes of mine constitute detaching with love and surrendering to a higher will. My True Self knows the answer. I must be quiet enough to hear the still small voice of wisdom within.

~ ~ ~

I just heard my daughter’s timer go off reminding her to use her spirometer. And I heard her using it. When the opportunity arose this morning to have that tough love conversation with her OT, I took it. I think that was my True Self’s wisdom.

8a35f-smiley2bsun2bfaceThank you, Universe!!

Making a Difference

I think most of us need to know we make a difference. It gives our life meaning and purpose. In my professional life, I had opportunities to make a difference almost daily. Recently a chance encounter reminded me of one such difference I had made years before. I was reading a book and not paying attention to the other people in the car wash waiting room when a young man approached me saying, “Don’t I know you?”

It took me only seconds to recognize one of my favorite former clients. The session I facilitated for him and his family is among my most memorable. He proudly told me he is twenty years sober, saying, “I can’t believe the life I have now.” It was clear he continues to embrace quality recovery. And it is gratifying to know I played a small part in launching him into his amazing new life.

Today, in retirement, with my conscious-eldering focus on “being,” it is not always so easy to know if being who I am makes a difference. And so I was thrilled to learn this week that I did.

The Angels

Our Angel Group

Our Angel Group begins our meeting with a meditation. The one we used a couple of weeks ago referenced surrender. A new member asked, “How do you surrender?” Two of us shared powerful experiences we’ve had surrendering during trying times.

This week, during our time of sharing gratitude, our new member relayed the compelling experience she’d had as a result of hearing our stories. When she heard about the peace that came over us, she decided to surrender an issue that had been troubling her. Tears streamed as she shared about the peace she, too, had found. I was deeply moved to know my sharing had made such a difference…in my favorite way…up close and personal.

I write about my experience of surrender in my memoir, A Long Awakening to Grace, and believe my story will make a difference, especially for those going through a difficult time. It is usually our painful challenges that bring us to our knees. That was certainly true for me. And my awakening to grace came as a result of the gift of peace that allowed me to relinquish the illusion that I had any control over the circumstances I was facing.

We humans are funny that way…thinking we can control the uncontrollable. I had a serious case of that kind of faulty thinking. Even today, after having experienced the miracle of grace in that situation where I had no control, when an uncomfortable circumstance triggers my desire to take charge, I need to remind myself that the only control I have is my response to whatever it is that is happening.

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As another member of The Angels pointed out, surrender is something we need to do over and over and over.