Monday, June 7, 2010

Would you rather be right...?

Forty-one years ago, I was led, shell-shocked and defeated, to an Al-Anon meeting. In memory, on that day someone gave me a pen which had the Serenity Prayer printed on it. However many days there have been between then and now on which I forgot the simple instruction of seeking the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can and the wisdom to know the difference, there have been equally as many - probably more - on which I remembered them.

To me, the heart of the message resides in, "...the wisdom to know the difference." If it is the action, attitude, opinion or condition of someone else, acceptance - not easily found and with greater difficulty maintained - is generally the wise path. If the source of discomfort is us, the options multiply.

What is shown to me most often, with neon arrows and beacon-carrying landing strip personnel, is how my own thinking, the ease with which I am able to misinterpret, can back me into a corner. It is, however, my good fortune - for I have declared it so - that I no longer see changing my mind as an indication of weakness. Taking a new stance may indicate that I have made a poor choice but my days of letting, "well, you made your bed, now you have to lie in it," prolong unhappiness are over. As I am sure I've said before, being right is over-rated. If you don't have a friend who asks you, "Would you rather be right or would you rather be happy?" I recommend that you find one.

The moment at which we recognize that a husband's/sibling's/friend's choices are not about us, and no matter how much they wish to hand us the blame and responsibility, if we don't accept it, we are freed. We are not immune to the sense of loss or grief that we carry in allowing them the dignity - or otherwise - of their own path, but we are not imprisoned by that meddling urge (raving untruths of the monkey mind) that tells us we are smart enough to be able to fix this. At our house, and it should probably be the motto inscribed above the door, the most frequently heard phrase, aside from, "is there anything on tv tonight?" would be, "It is what it is."

Which brings me to the things we can change.

Learning to be grateful continually is my lesson of the moment and something tells me I am not going to be the one with my hand always in the air - oooh, oooh, I know the answer. It requires finding a new place to stand when viewing the circumstances of my present and my past. Difficult as it is, falling as I do into the old dog category, there is a sense of wonder - mingled with confusion - in revisiting what I assumed to be true and acknowledging that what I took for the whole of it was but a piece. Re-examined and considered as a possible gift rather than being categorized as failure for what it never became, a decades-long friendship that possessed overtones and blurts of romance, may be celebrated for its humor and affection, shining and enduring.

It takes me by surprise, acquiring a measure of flexibility at an age when joints have begun to freeze and ways of being - or doing - generally become less easy to relinquish. Life is serial adaptation; we bend or we break. I wonder if talking to my knees will get them to come to the party?


Elisabeth said...

I'm new to your blog Marilynn, here via Angela at Blackland, and intrigued by your thoughts on writing and by your experience of al-anon that is so different from my own many many years ago. One day I might write about it. In any case it's good to meet you here.

Sultan said...

Nicely expressed. Flexibility of mind and attitude are rare and valuable traits.

Erin in Morro Bay said...

I truly believe that for the majority of us - a flexible attitude is the result of years of living - hence as body parts become less flexible, the mind continues to expand and open. We realize we don't always have the answer but are much more willing to listen to find one.
And congrats to you my dear for figuring out that you are not responsible for your relative's problems - boy! - did that one take me a long time!

Robert the Skeptic said...

I grew up in an alcoholic household. The short story is that it left lifetime scars and baggage for me to deal with.

One thing I resolved to do was NEVER drink. But at some point I decided that just because alcohol was "toxic" to my father's life, I was not my father! I chose a different path and I enjoy a cocktail with my wife most evenings.

One can put two people through identical situations and yet they will come through it differently. "Mindfulness" is a critical attribute is perseverance. Clearly you have that in spades.

Donna B. said...

Hello my friend. Stopping in to say hi...I enjoyed your post. Well said and yet another example of why your voice is so important in my life. xoxo