Holiday Expectations – Episode 229

Goodbye Jake. April 17, 2005 – December 17, 2017.

As we enter into a season where many of us are celebrating an end of the year holiday — Christmas, Kwanzaa, Hanukkah, New Year — what expectations do we have? What anxieties does this season provoke? Do you look forward to spending time with family, or dread it? Or are you spending this time alone? How can expectations be deadly, this time of the year?

  • By expecting it to be just like it was.
  • By having unrealistic expectations.
  • This year, everyone will be happy and glad to spend time together.
  • Dreading family dysfunction.
  • How can we set realistic expectations or let go of expectations?
  • How can we protect our serenity?
  • What can we do differently?

I was inspired, in part, to this topic by the following article in the June, 2017 issue of the Forum, which reminded me of an experience I had when I was just a couple of years into recovery.

I Asked God To Guide My Words

By Anonymous

One of the countless new skills I began to learn when I came to Al-Anon was managing my expectations. My need to improve in this area was especially evident whenever I was anticipating a visit with my alcoholic son, who lives in another part of the country. Beforehand, I would build up the visit in my mind’s eye, picturing our family laughing together, doing fun things, talking easily and affectionately about our lives.

But it was never like that. Conversation was constantly strained. It was hard to find any safe topics. Our son didn’t seem to want to talk about his work, social life, whether he was working his program or much of anything else. He wasn’t particularly interested in doing any of the things I thought would be fun. My rosy expectations bore absolutely no resemblance to what really took place.

As a result, these visits left me feeling hurt, disappointed, frustrated, sad, regretful, hopeless and even a little angry. I definitely had to get my head into a better place.

With my Sponsor’s guidance, I began to study Al-Anon literature on the topic of expectations. I soon discovered that there is a close relationship between my expectations and my level of acceptance—or lack thereof—regarding the circumstances of my life. My expectations were unrealistic because I had not truly accepted the realities of my son’s life and their impact on mine. I was simply turning a blind eye to how things really were—not denial, but not full acceptance either.

In preparation for the most recent visit, I armed myself with lots of study, prayer, reflection, writing in my journal and a commitment to constantly seek my Higher Power’s guidance. I literally asked God to guide every word I said and everything I did. While I hoped the visit would be, at the very least, pleasant and congenial, I no longer harbored glowing images that had no roots in reality.

The visit went better than any of the previous ones, and afterward I felt somewhat at peace. There had been times of real connection and other periods when each of us just went our own way, giving each other plenty of space. I relaxed and didn’t try to force things into a mold that would never fit our life. I hope future visits will be even better, but I’m grateful to have learned a new way of dealing with my expectations that I can apply to all areas of my life.

Reprinted with permission of The Forum, Al-Anon Family Group Headquarters., Inc., Virginia Beach, VA

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amends – a meditation

 

The only way out of the labyrinth of suffering is to forgive.

John Green, Looking for Alaska

I have had a lot of anger towards loved ones in the past. I remember that I used to write down the resentments against them when I took my inventory. I was so upset from the harms that I perceived had been committed against me – even if they were decades old. I had heard in the meeting rooms that forgiveness is key to finding peace. And I kept telling myself to forgive these people. I would even chant it to myself or act as if I had forgiven them. Nothing helped. My resentments remained and I felt frustrated.

Eventually, I got to the 8th Step in my Stepwork with my Sponsor. To do the 8th Step, I had to make a list of all persons I had harmed and become willing to make amends to them all. I listed everyone on my resentment list and listed my anger and judgment against them to be reasons for my amends. Thankfully, I had a wonderful Sponsor that asked me where my amends to myself was on the list. I realized I had no amends to myself – not really. I had hastily scribbled my name on the last page in the margin. My Sponsor reminded me that I was not really honoring  and respecting myself by ignoring my self-amends. I took her suggestion and sat and wrote a proper amends to myself. In the amends, I apologized for not standing up for myself in the past. I apologized for lying about my feelings  to myself and others. I apologized for ignoring my own needs. I apologized for giving up my power to other people. And then I cried because I had just been given an amends by the one person with whom I actually angry, myself.

As I cried, the pain left me and the suffering left me and my wounds started to close. Since then, every day that I am honest about my feelings, every time I honor my needs, and every time I stand up for myself, the wounds close a little more and open up more space for gratitude and love and even more forgiveness. And as I heal and forgive myself, forgiveness for others comes so easily. I think this is because my reality exists within me and I project that reality onto the world around me. Now that my reality is that I am responsible for loving myself, so I am able to seeking external validation and resenting people when I do not receive it.

Today, my Higher Power blessed me with happiness and peace as well as pain and fear. All four blessings are always present for me; some offer comfort and some offer opportunity. When I can see all of these as equal, one not better than another, I can stop feeling like a victim and be accepting, grateful, and forgiving.

A meditation for September 29, 2013

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blessing – a meditation

 

Every experience, no matter how bad it is, holds within it a blessing of some kind. The goal is to find it.

Buddha

Recently, I thought I have been struggling with acceptance because of a loved one's addiction and denial. My program has taught me that it is not up to me to classify someone as an addict, or alcoholic, or codependent since I know that I can only honestly speak about my own experience. But I have found myself deeply affected by fear and pain because I do not feel accepted or loved by this person. I found myself trying to explain my loved one's behavior to myself by assigning labels to this person's actions or creating stories around why they can not give me what I want. I would tell myself, “this person is not spiritually fit enough to be open and loving”. At other times, I would think “why doesn't this person love me enough to do this for me? Am I not good enough?”. Sometimes I would just call my loved one an addict and detach with resentment and anger.

In the end, I realized I was right – I was struggling with acceptance. Only, I was struggling with accepting my loved one rather than judging. I was also struggling with accepting myself and trusting in my Higher Power. I know this because my entire focus was on the acceptance I did not feel I was receiving from my loved one. I worried about this person and their behaviors rather than keeping the focus on me and my behavior and my needs.  It is none of my business what my loved one does or why unless it violates my boundaries; and having my boundaries violated is not the same as having my fears triggered. And that is all that is happening – my fears are being triggered. I am afraid that if I do not feel acceptance from this loved one,  I will suffer and be abandoned.

I remember thinking, even up to this morning, “Why did I invite this person into my life? Why couldn't I have left well enough alone?” But this is why. It is because my Higher Power wants me to love myself and know that my Higher Power loves me unconditionally – even when other people do not. What a blessing it is that I have the opportunity to learn how to love myself and accept the love of my Higher Power no matter what!

So, today, I took a pen, and wrote a message to myself that reminds me that I am loved by my Higher Power. And I know I will feel the fear that I am not good enough for the people in my life to love me. But then I will look at my wrist and realize the more important thing – that I am, have always been, and will always be good enough for my Higher Power to love and accept every part of me.

A meditation for September 26, 2013

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prayer – a meditation

 

Prayer is not asking. It is a longing of the soul. It is daily admission of one's weakness. It is better in prayer to have a heart without words than words without a heart.
Mahatma Gandhi

I used to use prayer as my judgment of God. At night, I would sit and explain to my Higher Power all the ways in which I felt that other people or circumstances were wrong or unhealthy or needed to change. Then I would proceed to tell my Higher Power exactly how these changes should occur in order to make life easiest for me. And I used to believe that if my prayers came true, then God loves me. Since I am not God and I don't control God, my prayers did not often “come true.” Because of this, I felt angry, judged, hurt, scared, and abandoned by God.

After I came to the program, I realized that my form of prayer was really just me taking inventory of my world and then trying to command my Higher Power to fix what I felt was wrong or incorrect. Today, I try to accept the world and understand that it is as it is for a reason, and that whatever the reason, it is in my highest good. I remember, early on, that I used to pray to understand the reason, but now I realize that it is not about the reason or other people or external circumstances. It is about me and the reality that I create. So today, when I pray, I ask my Higher Power to help me create my reality in a way that is of service to my Higher Power, myself, and others. When I pray, I ask for guidance rather than give it; I ask for love, rather than judge; and I ask for the will of my Higher Power, rather than my own. Because of this, I feel peace.

A meditation for September 6, 2013.

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friends – a meditation

 

You become like the people you spend the most time with.

 

I see this quote in two ways. The first is that I become like the people I spend most of my time with. And the second is that the people I spend the most time with reflect back to me who I am and how I see myself. That is that my outsides reflect my insides. I surround myself with what I believe to be true.

When I was judgmental of myself and unhappy, I attracted people that were the same way. And we would constantly reaffirm behaviours and actions that tended to inspire resentments and suffering and, in doing so, we would continue to be unhappy and judgmental. As I have become more interested in spiritual growth, the people I have attracted to me are people that are interested in the same and help guide me to greater spiritual growth.

The people with whom I surround myself reflect back to me what I believe to be true about the world. As I have come to understand this, I have found that people just organically come into my life and organically slip away.  The universe seems to provide me with what I wish for when I wish for it. In the same way, it brings the people and events into and out of my life based on my truths and the intentions I hold. And, in turn, these people help me to mold new intentions and truths as I grow.

Today, I try to spend time with people that nourish my soul and not my ego.

A meditation for September 3, 2013.

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