You must start asking the right questions
I woke up yesterday morning like I’ve woken up the past 60 days: tired, exhausted, and hell bent on starting my day again.
I did my Morning Pages. (Thanks, Julia Cameron! You’ve yet to let me down.)
I meditated for ten minutes with my husband.
I cleaned out my wreck of an office the best I could and took my sorry ass for a walk.
I wanted to feel joy and be in the moment, but all I could think about was the horrible feeling of dread I had in my stomach for everything that conspired against me like an epic shot of “Screw You” juice.
The Past 2 Months of Hell
In addition to the “normal” life of Covid, elections were looming.
I’ve had a LOT of personal challenges in my immediate family and my extended family.
I had unexpected stitches followed by surgery on my hand. (Um, don’t ever push your hand down as hard as you can on a trash can that is full of broken glass.)
My husband had mouth surgery last week. Add in a full time job teaching special ed, and my side gig coaching women to write books, and I was exhausted.
Normally a person of deep gratitude, I felt the weight of unwanted burdens piling up to the point where I was having a hard time concentrating. I was cranky with my family. I was angry at the dog. Despite my best efforts to “let go” and do the next indicated step — as my 12 step program so magnificently reminds me on a daily basis — I felt stuck.
The Power of Contrary Action
In an attempt to avoid self-pity, I took the opposite action of sitting in my house ruminating like an old record player stuck on a bad song and went for a walk. But when the beauty of the Fall leaves, a Labrador puppy, a waving/smiley baby and the smell of baking bread didn’t unhinge my negative mind, I did the only thing I could think of. In true Anne Lamott fashion, I muttered under my breath the most holy of holy prayers that one does when they are sinking in a quagmire of despair and unshakeable grief: “Help.”
And that’s when a tiny, but strong voice, came bubbling up. “Call your sponsor,” it told me.
So I did.
And what she said absolutely changed my life. I told her everything. How I couldn’t see the sun no matter how hard I tried. How I was in so much grief over my childhood home being sold. How I was terribly worried about one of my children’s life path and how if I heard my husband click his fork against his molar ONE. MORE. TIME. I would slide across the table Bruce Lee style and strangle him with the Italian cloth napkin. I mean, that would really put a bust on our lovely Italian meal out and then I’d be stuck with the bill.
“Why is all this stuff happening to me?” I lamented. “I pray. I meditate. I go to meetings. I am of service to people. I admit when I’m wrong. Why can’t I feel better?”
“You’re asking the wrong questions,” she told me.
“What do you mean?” I shot back, dumbfounded. I realized, with some irony, that that was yet another question, but I shut my mouth and let her continue.
“When you do things to feel better, you are in self-will. When you do things to be better, you are in God’s will.”
I had to admit she got me on that one, but I wasn’t ready to give in yet. I was paralyzed in a trance of Self-Righteous indignation with Self Pity rising. This state of mind didn’t feel amazing, but it was like a toxic ex-boyfriend from 1998… I knew he was gay, but I wasn’t quite ready to let go. (“Couldn’t I just have one more night of musical theater with him before we went our separate ways?” I used to ask myself. Of course, in the context of my sponsor’s statement, perhaps if I had asked a better question I would have saved myself endless mornings of remorse. But that was before I was sober. And I didn’t give up booze to repeat stupid patterns over and over, so I continued listening.)
“Instead of asking ‘Why are these things happening?’” she gently stated, “You need to be asking ‘What is this here to teach me?’ ”
Okay, she had me there. And as much as I didn’t want to admit it, all my circumstances, ALL of them, came down to the one character defect that gets me every time: control.
Yes, on the surface, my life felt like a Shit Show Circus. But in not trusting God, I was the only one to blame for constantly buying the tickets.
She continued, “When you insist that your way is the right way, Andrea, you are not leaving room for God to act. And worse than that, you are playing the victim so that you don’t have to change.”
“Ouch!” my ego shrieked.
“#TRUTH” my spirit leapt, not unlike a tight rope walker at the Greatest Show On Earth — my very own life.
Her final question went straight into the center of my being, “What if, from this point on, you never tried to control anybody ever again? What would that do to your relationships?”
I didn’t say anything. How could I? She was right. But I can tell you how I felt — like I was going to throw up.
“Are you willing to never again blame anyone else for what is happening to you? Are you willing instead to look at your life like a giant game and see what it can teach your soul?” she asked.
“I guess,” I said, half-heartedly. I felt destroyed — like my gut had taken a giant hit. Which, of course, it did. I mean, if I couldn’t blame anyone, then it was all up to me. And if was all up to me, then I was really doomed to fail. Because me, just little old Andrea? She was only human. And how could little old human Andrea manage everything going on?
“What if I am not capable of not blaming people?” I asked her.
“You’re asking the wrong questions again,” she told me. “A better one might be, ‘Are you capable of doing this with God’s help?’”
And that’s when, for just tiny moment, I felt the giant weight of the entire world that had been my life for the past 60 days ease. And, just as quickly, all these questions started flooding in — questions that my very own soul had the answers for.
The Beauty of the Right Question
“What if I’m not in charge of my almost adult child’s life decisions at this time?”
“What if I focused on what was going right with my kids instead of what was going wrong?”
“What if it didn’t matter if my husband and I agreed on everything financially?’
“What if my childhood home being sold was not a travesty but the best thing in the world to bring on new beginnings for my mom, my brother and my entire family — to gather in a beautiful new place and create new memories?”
“What if in not ever playing the victim I can expose some of those final tapes from my past that are holding me back so I can release them to God and transform into the person I have meant to be all along?
I couldn’t believe all the questions my soul had for me.
But I can promise you this. I already knew the answers. And one of them, friends, was to fire up this old blog again and write.
I’ve missed it. And I’ve missed you. And most of all, I’ve missed the me that is always happiest when I’m writing. And so, I leave you with this:
“How are you feeling about life these days?”
“Are you asking the right questions?”
And, most important:
“Are you willing to not be a victim in your own life and see what life has to teach you so you can be better, instead of do better?”
If so, you’re in the right place. Follow me as I write Monday — Friday. I can’t wait to grow with you again!
I’m a published TV, blog, magazine and book writer who also coaches moms and grandmoms to write books rooted in wisdom, spirituality and humor. Come back Monday — Friday where I’ll post about spirituality, writing and sobriety. And sometimes tacos. Because Tacos make everything better. Always.
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