Wednesday, January 9, 2013

The Next Right Thing

"What went wrong?" she asked me.

I paused. "I guess the main reason it failed was that everyone who heard about this initiative felt it was a great idea, agreed that it was needed, even thought about participating, but when they realized how much work it would take to get better, and how long it would take, they just ... lost interest." 

The conversation had begun when I dropped by the community centre where for a year and a half, Codependents Anonymous had been meeting twice a month, and where, after much soul-searching and lack of attendance, we had decided to disband. I was returning the key the administrator had given me.

Our talk then ranged into a wide range of topics, sharing experiences in recovering from codependency, thought patterns we each battled in isolation, and we agreed that perhaps in a larger population base, we might find enough people who would be interested in doing whatever it took to be free from old, destructive patterns of thinking. 


How to build a ramp (or make a major lifestyle change):
Start where you are, do what you can TODAY, and
carry on from where you left off, tomorrow

I got to thinking - after we had talked and parted company - about the tendency there is in human nature to quail when faced with a daunting task. One looks at the enormity of it all, and it's easy to get discouraged. That's part and parcel of the very kind of thinking that keeps people (like me) in dysfunction; it took a great deal of desperation for me to bite that bullet and start challenging my long-held beliefs about relationships, people, myself, God, and what I had considered important.

What I discovered after I started the process was that even though it was going to take a while, I'd start where I was: no apologies and no excuses, and then do what I could TODAY. I forced myself to NOT think about how far there was yet to go, how much there was yet to do - which was a big deal for me. Over and over I reminded myself that I was only responsible for doing the "next right thing." Of course, my definition (once I got into the process) of what was "right" started to undergo a transformation. 

I was surprised to discover that "doing the next right thing" and "being right about things" are mutually exclusive. The former is about humility and honesty; the latter is about self-aggrandizement and control. 

I learned - by making a lot of mistakes - to be kind to myself when I made mistakes or slipped back in my recovery; often I felt like I was making a step forward only to feel as though I was taking three steps backward. What was really happening was that I was blazing a new trail and making sure I knew where the path was by tamping it down, over and over again. I was practicing. I remember stopping myself when I started doing things the "old way" - even in mid-sentence - and forcing myself to do things the "new way." It felt uncomfortable at first because it was so new. I was terrified of where it might take me. I was afraid of the unknown, nervous that I wouldn't like the finished product, that I would lose more than I would gain.

Yet ... the results spoke for themselves, little by little, one day at a time. It wasn't long before my kids actually wanted to talk to me again. They weren't afraid of my reactions (or should I say, my OVER-reactions). My husband was visibly more relaxed around me. And ... I was happier. Freer. More peaceful. Even though I was still doing (with a great deal of help from above) what amounted to a total reconstruction of my attitudes and my beliefs about myself and my relationships, it wasn't like I was working in a vacuum with no hope of results until I was done. That was the beauty of it. The changes were small, sometimes frustratingly so, but they happened, and they kept happening. 

They keep happening even now. New doors, new challenges open up to me and all the while, I am learning more and more about boundaries, about self-care, about acceptance, about courage, and about really living life instead of just surviving it - even giving back once in a while. 

Dr. Bill Cosby (yes, he earned a Ph.D in Urban Education in 1977!) once said, "Decide that you want it more than you are afraid of it." 

For me, that decision was key. And ... it still is.


  1. This comment has been removed by the author.

  2. Received from Ellie (author of the blog "One Crafty Mother") via Facebook:

    I don't think my comment went through. Blogger ate it. But I said I loved the insights in your post, and your gorgeous courage and even more gorgeous heart. Thank you. -xoxoxo