The Courage to Receive
I’ve gone deep and patiently long in recovery, because I want to feel good. I had my personal ground zero to contend with, and I lived so close to the bone at times, that I discovered its marrow. Today, I’m grateful for that, because I know real joy when it arises,and it blows me away every time. That is why balance is so important to me. Good stuff can freak me out too, and cause me to retreat into unconsciousness if I am not careful. Unworthiness was even deeper than the marrow of my bones; it was in the fabric of my cells. And, I’m not alone in this. The mystics I trained with said they all met layer upon layer of it on their path to knowing God.
I tried to draw the students in my Life Choices class into the feeling of having one thing that they really, really wanted in class one night. Most of them are chronically ill, but making progress, because they kept coming to class. I had forgotten how truly fragile it is to open the heart to the tangible aspects of good, but they reminded me that night. I had brought magazines and other art supplies so that we could each create a visual of what we wanted, and then spend some time talking about how it made us feel to believe that it was already ours. There was a palpable hesitation in the room as I began to pass out the supplies. People started to look away; down actually. Nobody moved, and nobody was talking; they were not the least bit excited about this task. So, I started to talk about how hard it had been for me to shift from a place of reacting to what came my way in life, to begin creating what I really wanted. I told them that it took courage and felt really weird, because I never really believed I could do that before.
Right then, one of the men said loudly, YES! That yes took my breath away, and brought a tear to my eye. None of us really knew how to do this thing called creating what we wanted. Most of them couldn’t come up with a single thing to choose if they could have it. Many of them said that they had been so disappointed by life, they didn’t try to stretch like that anymore. “Could we just write about it instead?’
Of course we can. I felt such tender affection for them, I began to tell the story of my life. It was the most powerful class that I conducted there, and the most revealing. The world we live in does not condition us to loving creation, but to reactive fear and limitation. It takes a heroic love to overcome this malady, and I am glad that I have the courage to receive it.
It didn’t come over night, or in waves of light. More like “bird by bird, as Anne Lamott says. One single thing at a time, as it emerged. The trick was to stay out of the feeling of powerlessness, because that, to me, is the origin of all illness. I became an observer of my reactions, instead of believing I was entitled to them to prove some lack. The thing that made that process possible at all was that I was transformed by the love of God, and I knew God was not usually withholding something from me; I was blocking its receipt somehow. It takes courage to believe in the fertile void, and it takes an adult level of responsibility to admit that most of my problems were really of my making.
That said, it is only love that will change all of that. Material things will not make me happier, nor will a job or a lover . That must come from within my being. But keeping them out of my life because I feel like I don’t deserve them is not healthy either. This disease of alcoholism is cunning and baffling and powerful, and staying small, or helpless and with obvious limitation, is a ripe ground for a resentment to grow. And we know that resentments are fatal, even if the bleed is slow. They cut us off from the sunlight of the spirit.
It’s a tricky balance being completely cool with what is in my life, but to accept responsibility for allowing more. But I do know this truth. The more I allow myself to be loved by God, the more generous and open my heart is. I love others better, I sleep better, and I worry less. I actually have the guts to receive some really beautiful things.
I stumbled upon a letter I wrote a couple of years ago to myself describing my perfect day, in detail. I was really happy to realize that the essence of all of those things are already in my life; some of the forms are too, exactly as I described them. I can feel the other forms as they approach now, and I am gently preparing a place in my being, and my life, for their magnificence.
It is such good news that God makes all things new. A little courage, some housecleaning, and allowing myself to be loved. What a beautiful deal.