Sunday, October 6, 2013

I Control What I Can Control – Which Is Not Very Much

This past week I was reminded of a quote I have heard many times. I needed that reminder this week. The quote? When you try to control everything, you enjoy nothing. Relax, breathe, let go, and just live.
Nice. Cute. Pithy. But, how do I do that?
If I’m spending all my time trying to control all the external events that (I believe) are messing up my serenity or my life, then all I’m really doing is keeping the focus off of me.  A good fried and member of the AA Fellowship was named Tommy. He, after about 9 months of sobriety, discovered he had a terminal cancer. He died sober. Most of us in AA begin speaking at a meeting by saying; “I’m <name> and I’m an alcoholic.”  Tommy would always say: “Hi Everyone. My name is Tommy. I am addicted to anything and anyone that will keep me from focusing on me.”
AA’s Fourth/Fifth Steps are “Made a searching and fearless moral inventory of ourselves. Admitted to God, to ourselves, and to another human being the exact nature of our wrongs.” Step Nine is “Made direct amends to such people [we had harmed] wherever possible, except when to do so would injure them or others.” When I do a mini-4th Step now, it’s always to look for my role in the situation. Maybe it’s a large one. Maybe it’s a small one. It doesn’t really matter. I acknowledge my part, make amends if I can, and get on with my life.
That’s the key for me – doing my “inside” work and getting on with the rest of my life.
One of AA’s twelve promises: “If we are painstaking about this phase of our development [working the steps – especially Step Nine]. We will be amazed before we are half way through. We are going to know a new freedom and a new happiness. We will not regret the past nor wish to shut the door on it. We will comprehend the word serenity and we will know peace….” In other words, having done the suggested “inside” work, we will begin getting on with the rest of our lives.
Here’s another quote (attributed to Lao Tzu): If you are depressed, you are living in the past. If you are anxious you are living in the future. If you are at peace, you are living in the present.
A course in Miracles (ACIM) teaches me not to let my past experience be my guide for the present. To let my past guide my present is to allow my ego to remain in control of what I do.  That, for me, is not a positive, good thing. That is to continue to make the same kinds of mistakes all over again. Over and over and over.
When single, if I stopped seeing a woman who turned out not to be AS sexually open as I hoped, I’d look (using my past experience) for one who was. I’d find her, only to discover, for example, that she didn’t like to maintain a reasonably neat house. So I’d focus on that aspect and look for another woman who was more in tune with my “house neatening” values. I’d find her, only to discover….  Well, you get the picture.
The repeating issue my ego kept telling me? Just focus on the one or two disappointing aspects of a relationship and find someone that seemed to correct those. But those relationships were also always disappointing.  What my ego never clued me into was that I, Me, Myself was always the common denominator of all my relationships. If I wanted better relationships, I needed to work on making me a better partner.
My ego loathes change – primarily, change within me. My ego interprets change within me as the death of it and my ego will not support me in an effort it perceives as an act of ego-suicide.
How do I change me? I change my attitude. When all is said and done, all I can control is my attitude. I cannot control people, places or things. The only thing that’s left is my attitude. I get quiet and ask the Holy spirit to show me another way of looking t things. That’s where I start and that always works – until the next time.
I love the adage that states: “Whenever you change the way you look at things, the things you look at change.” My ego simply cannot wrap its little head around that idea. But my visceral experience has taught me to have faith in that reality. I have witnessed it firsthand. With the Holy Spirit’s help and my willingness to ask and listen, my attitude will begin to change and my universe changes. Always.
Although these messages are mostly for me, thanks for listening. As always – feel free to forward this message to your friends, family, and those accompanying you on your spiritual journey.
#1 October, 2013
Copyright, 2013

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