“When I let go of what I am, I become what I might be.” Lao Tzu
Yesterday, we worked on Step 12 at Al-Anon.
Having had a spiritual awakening as the result of these steps, we tried to carry this message to others, and to practice these principles in all our affairs.
The discussion centered on how we can share this messages of healing and support received through Al-Anon and yet still respect the anonymity of the participants. At some point, someone shared that when you focus on one thing in life you are bound to become an expert in that. On the heels of that, another person shared how a co-worker who complained compulsively and incessantly was likely an expert. That’s all the complainer could take in, negativity, because that’s what she put out to the world.
I remember living like that many times throughout my life. Worries and fears stood tall and proud at forefront of my mind and tongue. Chronic anxiety resulted, evidence of the illness was seen in my entire physical and emotional state that I allowed to be hijacked by worry that was born out of fear. Xanax helped quell it, but it didn’t stop it.
The time of my life that I am thinking of was four years ago when I contacted the Employee Assistance Program through my employer. I met Janet, my therapist, through which we began the journey of letting go of who I was and to become who I wanted to be. I didn’t want to be in a toxic environment. I didn’t want to be miserable. I didn’t want to be disconnected from my child. I learned that as long as I allowed the behaviors, relationships, and situations to exist, then I only had myself to blame for my misery.
Breaking that miserably anxious cycle started with the truth. And, the truth can be a tough nut to crack. For example, it took me two years of therapy, to be honest about my marriage. We have to break down a lot of barriers that we create to keep the truth buried. Once we find the courage to do that, we realize that the truth is love. And the most important love in life is the love of and for our self. That’s all God wants for us: To love and be loved.
And that’s what Al-Anon teaches us, reminds us, and helps us to own that love and to embrace it. When we let go of all the other garbage, when we stop blaming ourselves for everyone else’s problems and addictions, when we forgive ourselves for being imperfect, and when listen to, respect, own and honor our own voice, then wow, watch out world! Every day is Valentine’s Day. It’s exactly like Lao Tzu wrote: “I become what I might be.”
What I didn’t share with the group yesterday, was that this blog is the channel through which I can execute Step 12. Yesterday, at the meeting I was pretty negative about Step 12. I interpreted its intent as cult-like and evangelical. But through the discussion, and a good night’s sleep, just like Step 11 (which is our spiritual experience), Step 12 is unique to its user. Unlike my feelings yesterday, I know Step 12 is not about recruiting followers, trumpeting God’s word, and preaching to every addict or person affected by someone else’s addiction to join a program. Step 12 is about love.
It felt good to wake up on this Valentine’s Day and realize Step 12’s meaning, at least my interpretation of it anyway! I’m grateful to my friend Karin, who had us stop in Kilwins last weekend to buy a little Valentine’s gift for her daughters. Her thoughtful gesture inspired me, and I bought something, too.
This morning, as Bridget ate breakfast I gave her a Valentine’s Day present. She smiled from ear to ear when she saw the pretty box, chocolate covered cashews filled its insides. Cashews are her favorite. Shortly, thereafter I made a valentine video for a client. And right after that, I received a valentine.
I smiled at the thoughtful valentine. It made me wonder if I still had the box. I went down to the storage closet. I found the box I made for Bridget in first grade. I remember how I resented the co-worker who called me an overzealous parent when I shared my excitement about making Bridget’s Valentines Box. No, it wasn’t like that. Making that box with Bridget, from the strips of different colored papers to the letters, hearts, and stickers, was a labor of love. I opened the box, still covered, only today its construction paper has faded. Inside were valentines from classmates from over the years, all of them simple, innocent, and playful gestures of love.
Today we don’t really need cupid, Hallmark, Fannie May, Kilwins, or roses to honor those we love. I won’t dismiss Valentine’s Day outright because it’s a day to do something special. And because today is February 14, I did do something special this morning for the person I love most in this world, my daughter. I believe that the universe returned in kind.
Happy Valentine’s Day. Go ahead, and give yourself a big hug and see what happens.