Tough Choices Yield Amazing Graces
I was invited to return to Rockhill Manor to share some good news with the folks that attended a Life Skills class I taught several months ago. I was excited to see everyone again, because they really touched me in that class. Rockhill Manor is a very nice, well run home for the chronically mentally ill, and many of them have substance abuse problems. I always left that class feeling grateful, and moved by something mysterious that happened during it. We connected with each other, and I’m not sure how it happened, but I know it had something to do with our hearts, perhaps even our souls. I could write a book about the poverty of connection among the mentally ill folks I know or have represented, and the fact that society treats them like cast offs. We are terrified as a people when our minds don’t work well, because we worship our mind like it is a God.
The leader is a good friend of mine and an extraordinary woman. She has weathered many losses and life changes that would wreck anyone without deep roots in something real. She told the class that we would be talking about tough choices that night, and shared openly about some that she had recently made. The idea was that was a part of recovery and building a healthy life. She was still in pain over one in particular, and it was palpable. I admire the fact that she shared it, but she loves them, and being honest with them demonstrates it. I listened to her describe her choices; why they were hard, and why she made them. Then I spoke, and shared my perspective. Making choices doesn’t cripple me like it used to, and I don’t feel like a victim when I make them. They seem more graceful too, because I let God inform them. What is hard, is the pain that arises when I feel like I don’t have a choice, and it is almost always a lie. Or, sadness that emerges when I see clearly all the times that I didn’t make the choice that I am making now, and how that confusion hurt me or someone else. No matter what I lose in the process, it was probably time to let it go.
I first noticed the difference in how I was choosing about two years into my sobriety. When I had a big decision to make, I needed time alone to get quiet and to listen. I created a boundary physically, spiritually, and emotionally, and let myself cry if I needed to. My sponsor taught me that early on, and I trusted her that the pain would pass. When it did within a day, or after a night, I was in awe. It passed through me, and it didn’t kill me. I would often go and pick some flowers, retreat to my little sanctuary and write. Sometimes I listened to music, but I did not talk about it with everyone that would listen. Most often, I didn’t talk to anyone, except God. I bared my soul to God, like I would a friend. It was astonishing the first time I realized I wasn’t talking to someone else. I was consulting someone within me. And I listened for the next clue. Within a short time, I would relax, because I had unburdened my mind, and the answer came after, from a deep place within me.
This method saved me money on phone bills and a lot of embarrassing conversation filled with arrogant ideas about what I was going to do, and how the thing was going to work out, before it had a chance to. It didn’t take a rocket scientist to see that I had behaved desperately and fearfully before, because I was okay with uncertainty all of a sudden. As to outcome, not the fact God loved me enough to direct my path and open me to an abundant reality.
When I returned to Marquette, Michigan last summer, I went through some things that I had left in storage. When I put them there, I was really devastated about my divorce, and just shut the door on the contents of a house I left when the divorce was final. I never thought I would stop wanting my ex husband, but I have. God did for me what I couldn’t do for myself then. One of the first things I saw in storage were some beautiful letters that he wrote to me. They were probably tough to write, and were really tough for me to receive. I stepped back into our home and our love as I read them in August, and I sobbed. Not because I wanted him, but because I almost killed myself because I couldn’t have him then. I stayed with someone who didn’t love me anymore, hoping that he would change his mind. That was really unkind to both of us, and I am sad that I behaved that way then. I won’t do that again, because God changed the way I feel about myself.
There is really nothing in my life that I couldn’t live without if I had to, and that is an awesome freedom. Having the courage to ask for help to get well, opened me to receiving grace. When I got what I needed, I began to trust that I always would, as long as I took care of myself along the way. After that, every choice was really less dramatic because I could always make another choice if I was wrong, and still be okay.
So, the other night, I spent some valuable time encouraging my friend, and admiring her bravery in self-care. It’s awkward at the beginning, because all the old pains make a final pitch, in a really nasty chorus, but it’s an old story. It’s just a new face or a new situation, but it always ends the same. There is an amazing grace that attends acts of self-care, and it is palpable. It’s what the residents responded to about me, I’m sure. They want freedom too, the kind of freedom that gives peace, no matter how limited their movement, their finances or their thinking might be. I’ve been blessed to share time with all of them, to see the delight in their eyes as hope becomes flesh and breathes life.
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