Wednesday, March 28, 2012
Learning as I Grow ....
I'e learned that the only person I can change is myself.
Change. Not of others. Forget the others. Do they really matter in the universal scheme of things? Some, yes. Those who are closest to me: Papa Bear, the cubs, the grandcubs, others in the extended family in my particular den. But what about the others? Those who have passed through my life journey at some time or another. Been on the stage of my life either as major performers or bit players and then exited? Those I went to high school with 45 years ago? Those I shared coffee with in university? My mates at Language school? The other missionaries I laboured with in a small town on the Texas-Mexican border? Workmates from various employment scenarios? Most of these players have gone on to perform on other stages. Taking over other parts. Significant in others' lives.
I've learned in my journey that before any relationship can have a chance of changing, I have to change myself. Changing myself is not based on superficial changes but on the deep healing of recovery from major events, traumas in my life. Verbal abuse. Molestation. Schoolyard bullying. Becoming a co-dependent at an early age. Battered and bruised self esteem. Etc. The list goes on. Change in relationships began with recovery in me.
The first step in this life-changing journey of recovery and change began with the simple realization that I was many things, but stupid was not one of them. The journey began with the realization that all my life I had thought of myself as stupid, as lacking. Believing a lie. But if I was not stupid, then what was I? And so the journey began. Not one tall leap over a building in a single bound, but rather very small, baby steps. Excruciatingly small. Excruciatingly difficult. Painful. One at a time. Followed by another. And then another. Agonizing in their slowness. Yet permanent features of the new me: the recovering Mama Bear.
I began to look inside myself, beyond the surface layers of fur, to determine who I really was. What are my strengths? My weaknesses? As part of this process, I came to a life-changing realization: focus on the strengths. Build on them. Recognize the weaknesses for what they are, but don't focus on them. Why? Well, for example, I'm not good at math. Never have been. Never will be. So why waste time on something I cannot change? That will ultimately waste precious energy? I recognize that it's there, but I don't stress about it. Agonize over it. I simply accept that weakness for what it is. Part of the composite picture of who I am. Others can do the math for me. (I thank God almost daily for the person who invented the calculator!)
I focus now on the things I can do that others cannot. Write. Photography. Crochet. Knit. Care about others. Etc.
Focus. When I take a picture, I am focussing on something that is, at that moment in time and space, capturing my attention. It dominates the scene of my focus.
The series on the right is of the Skywheel in Niagara Falls, Ontario. Every time I visit the Falls, this gigantic wheel captures my attention. It dominates the scene. Towering over everything.
So it is with my focus during recovery. One object at a time.
At one very early point in my journey towards recovery, someone said to me: "I've learned something you haven't learned: you can't change anyone." It wasn't said in a reflective sort of way. It was very much a put down. A cut off. Nasty. Defensive. Justifying actions that in reality had no justification.
I've learned two things. One is how very true that comment is. I cannot change anyone else. I don't have that power. Nor should I.
However, I have learned something much more profound. While I cannot change others, there is one person I can change. One very important person. Myself.
My journey towards recovery has been and continues to be very much about change. Changing the way I think. The way I perceive myself. The way I perceive life. The way I perceive others. The way I perceive God.
My journey towards recovery has been humbling at times as I realized that I had given more importance to people who should not have been that important in my life, those bit players on the stage of my life, while, at the same time, devaluing those significant people in my life who should have been important, the major co-stars on the stage of my life, the bears who inhabit my den and are bound to me by blood and/or marriage. The truly humbling part was sitting down with each of these significant bears in order, beginning with Papa Bear, then proceeding on to the cubs in birth order, and telling them that. I told each one that I was not only aware that I had devalued them but that I was sorry for doing so and that, from that point on, I intended to put them first in my life, value them.
That was hard. Very hard.
Yet, it has also been very rewarding. The start of a new relationship with each one.
I also learned through this phase of my recovery, that while I cannot change others, relationships can change as others respond to the changes within me.