I said it jokingly at our A.W.E. group a few weeks ago. It was one of those jokes with so much truth in it, we all laughed! As mothers of adult kids, we could all identify.
Right now it feels as though things are falling apart, and there's little, if anything, that I can do. (I'm referring to some things regarding Daniel, my grown son, and his current situation.)
Remember the whole Dutch Door thing that helps me so much? I wish. Right now that door is practically torn off its hinges. Both the bottom and the top are swung open. Only it's not the idyllic garden scene in the photograph.
Random, unwelcome things fly within and without, and I try to manage my emotions and my thoughts, and whew. . .I feel a lot of energy and stress and raw pain around this. The excruciating kind. And there's also that angry-sad I sometimes get. Angry so I don't have to feel how sad I truly feel.
Walking sometimes helps, and so I went for a long walk yesterday afternoon. By the time I got home, I had a solution, and a plan. I would dive in, uninvited and unasked, and fix the whole thing! (Like any good mother.) It might be hard, it might take a lot of time, it might call for extreme measures, but I could do it. Immediately I felt better.
But what about my life? The one life over which I do have some control? If I fly off on a fix and solve mission, who will attend to that? Besides. No one has invited or asked me to "help."
That slowed me down, at least. Thankfully.
So instead of moving forward, I decided that I need to go back. Back to some sources of help, a couple of which I've mentioned here before. Back to the Welcoming Prayer and the first three of the Twelve Steps:
The Welcoming Prayer
Gently become aware of your body and your interior state.
Welcome, welcome, welcome.
I welcome everything that comes to me in this moment
because I know it is for my healing.
I welcome all thoughts, feelings, emotions,
persons, situations and conditions.
I let go of my desire for security.
I let go of my desire for approval.
I let go of my desire for control.
I let go of my desire to change any
person, or myself.
I open to the
love and presence of God
the healing action of grace within.
~ Mary Mrozowski
The Twelve Steps Prayer
1. We admitted we were powerless over our addiction--that our lives had become unmanageable.
2. We came to believe that a power greater than ourselves could restore us to sanity.
3. We made a decision to turn our will and our lives over to the care of God as we understood God.
The whole answer is more in the realization that my reaction to things--and that strong urge to solve and fix (for someone else)--arises straight out of my own deeply flawed ways of being. Things stemming from childhood, when I believed that I (solely, single-handedly) possessed the magical powers to be the right answer and solve the pain for those around me, if only I would be good enough, strong enough, and smart enough. If I couldn't muscle my way through by sheer determination, or figure it out, I could always fake it.
Now, help and hope for me comes through a form of surrender. What I want is immediate relief, but surrender really means being willing to feel the anguish; to grieve the losses and pray through the night; to be held and loved and cared for by the One who is big enough and loving enough to do that for me. That is the place where I find the strength I need. And grace, eventually, I hope, to keep going. (Even if I'm not feeling it in this moment.)
And I'm not leaving myself there. Rachel Naomi Remen writes wonderfully about the difference between helping and serving in her article, In Service of Life (Noetic Sciences Review, Spring 1996). Again and again, I come back to the things she is able to articulate so clearly, things that I hope to build into my way of thinking; that I hope will enable me to relate differently:
Serving is different from helping. Helping is based on inequality; it is not a relationship between equals. People feel this inequality. When we help we may inadvertently take away from people more than we could ever give them; we may diminish their self-esteem, their sense of worth, integrity and wholeness. Helping incurs debt.
But serving, like healing, is mutual. Serving is also different from fixing. When I fix a person I perceive them as broken. Fixing is a form of judgment. All judgment creates distance, a disconnection. In fixing there is an inequality of expertise that can easily become a moral distance. We cannot serve at a distance.
We can only serve that to which we are profoundly connected, that which we are willing to touch. We serve life not because it is broken but because it is holy.
If helping is an experience of strength, fixing is an experience of mastery and expertise. Service, on the other hand, is an experience of mystery, surrender, and awe. We are servers of the wholeness and mystery in life.
The bottom line, of course, is that we can fix without serving. And we can help without serving. And we can serve without fixing or helping. They may look similar if you're watching from the outside, but the inner experience is different. The outcome is often different, too.
Over time, fixing and helping are draining and depleting. Service is renewing. When we serve, our work itself will sustain us.
Service rests on the basic premise that the nature of life is sacred, that life is a holy mystery which has an unknown purpose. When you serve, you see life as whole.