Well, that good intention of mine from earlier in the week: “Don’t take things personally” seems to have gone out as an invitation to my character defects to come to a party.
Within hours of my new experiment I was taking lots of things personally and worse, I was noticing it and feeling unable to wrassle the defects down. Not fun! I found myself particularly challenged by an old habit of thinking that I thought I had dealt with ages ago: “What About Me?” And “I’m important too.” Not attractive and miserably uncomfortable.
But here is the value of long-term recovery: it becomes so hard to entertain those thoughts and feelings for very long. Not that they shimmer once and disappear but it’s hard to pretend that issues belong to other people and are not mine.
In the same way that AA can ruin your drinking, AA can also ruin the pleasure of being right and the dark joy of holding onto a resentment. Even while my hand is on my hip and I am certain of my superior self a tiny voice is whispering, “What is your part in this?”
My “personalization” had attached itself to two people and I knew that I needed my recovery toolbox and some outside help. So here’s is what I did…and what I am still doing:
First: I began to pray for help. The first prayers sounded like this: “Oh God what is this crap in my head? Help me. Yuck. I hate this. Remove this. Come on, come on, come on…get this out of me. Hurry up.”
Second: I knew I had to tell on myself so I emailed my sponsor and a close friend. I told them my mean thoughts and the nasty burning feeling I was having about people. I admitted that I was actually wishing someone ill and that while I knew it was my yuck, I was mad. I was also sad and scared to find myself in this yuck.
Then: I changed my prayer to something like, “Please help me. I think this is old family stuff and its getting attached to someone who triggers old jealousy and fear. I know this is mine but I can’t see my way out. Give me courage to do what I need to do to get clarity. I want to be free. Help.”
Fourth: The written word. I got on the train to go to New York City. The rhythm of the train and the beautiful river views from Albany to Manhattan helped me and I kept praying. I had my Kindle with me and I opened it looking for some kind of help and there I found the book, “Drop the Rock.” Perfect. It told me that this was all about Steps Six and Seven. Bingo. I know that, so I began to pray the Seventh Step prayer. That helped too.
Throughout the day in New York my mantra was, “I turn my will and my life over to you.” It wasn’t perfect. My yuck kept breaking through to remind me about “her” and “him”. But I used 6 and 7 and my mantra prayer. By the time I was back on the train to come home the grip was lessening.
Then: The next day I went out to walk and took my IPod Shuffle along. The Shuffle is a God tool. I’ve got a mix of music, talks, and recovery stuff on the Shuffle and as you know—it shuffles—so it’s unpredictable. And what popped right up as I began to walk and listen? A Joe and Charlie talk on Steps 6 and 7. Uh huh. Again 6 and 7. By now I’m laughing.
But I listened and here’s what they had to say about Six and Seven: God will remove what God can remove and God will do what I can’t do. But God doesn’t do what I can. Yeah. And what I can do in steps 6 and 7 is “Do the opposite”. Brilliant but shocking.
“Do the opposite.” God will remove the defect if and when we start doing the opposite of the defect we want removed. Want lying removed? Start telling the truth. I wanted jealousy and scarcity removed so I had to start sharing and praising and being really emotionally generous. Ha! Not easy but I was motivated by wanting relief so I began. And because I like to measure everything I began to count my new behaviors. I made a game of it. How many times each day can I do the very opposite of the thing I am struggling with? (Of course, you see that making it into a game lightened the weight and gave me some power back—in a good way.)
So here I am days later. No, not fixed. But hyper-aware of my part and of a simple set of actions that I can take to shift a defect of character while God does his thing with it. And yes, I am still praying “hurry up, hurry up” cause I hate discomfort just like you. But I can see my part and I have some steps to take and the light is there at the end of this tunnel. And that, I am taking very personally.