"I'm COOOOOOOLD," Sennika wailed as her little body trembled. Part with anger, part with the cold she was complaining about. Her small fingers and toes long ago turned prune from her long play time in the tub. To my suggestion of "get out of the bathtub," she returned with a "No! I'm cold!" The drama of the situation was more enjoyable than finding a warm solution. It was serving her. In that moment, I saw myself. No longer child, but grown woman "staying in the bathtubs" of life. Those situation, circumstances, and relationship frustrations that just a few years previously had been completely invisible to me.
Things to Act
2 Nephi 2:14 "And now, my sons, I speak unto you these things for your profit and learning; for there is a God, and he hath created all things, both the heavens and the earth, and all things that in them are, both things to act and things to be acted upon."
During Leland's pregnancy I was taught several amazing things by The Spirit. That communication as Spirit to my spirit was challenging to articulate. It was like trying to take a 3-D image down to a 2-D. Parts were lost and the image changed.
To both of our frustration I attempted again and again to articulate to Mark. A near attempt at one precious truth was a flow chart. For the first time I was realizing the power I hold as a Co-Creator with God in the circumstances of my life. I was realizing that I was attracting the turmoil and drama in my life. That was a big pill to swallow at my first exposure. Previously it had been easier to shuffle blame to others or situations or find excuses than to stare that that realization squarely in the face. More on this another time. Tonight I need to zoom the lens in and focus on ACTing or being ACTED UPON.
It is this concept of "get out of the bathtub." I still remember the day when the words formed a skeleton of the truth that was burning in my heart. My pen flew as I jotted it down in a visual that my husband could begin to grasp what I was so urgently seeking to share with him. My flow chart looked something like this:
Can I act?YES
I ACT (bring more choices)........OR.....I take no action--- I am ACTED UPON (less immediate choices)
But I can still choose peace (surrender my will)
HOW can I ACT? WHY can I not act?
I began running life situations, scenarios, and circumstances through my flow chart and was blown away by what I was discovering. Having recently realized I could act in the seemingly road-blocked situation of my baby's continued life, I had new eyes to see. By new-to-me at the time definition, PRAYER is acting. I couldn't think of a situation where I could not act and have influence.
Then I started to dig deeper.
What about the weather?
Certainly we cannot act about what we are experiencing with the weather, right?
NOPE! Instead of complaining about the feet of snow in Rexburg, I can:
A. Take warm action (ironic after the story beginning this post, right?)
C. Live in a warm place during the winter, or even just visit a warm place.
What about death?
This was the only one I could come up with at the time that was "ish" (hold on for a minute...) :) Take the emotion out of it for a minute and stay with me. I acknowledge that death can be a difficult subject for many and I am in no way intending to be insensitive or make stereotypes or sweeping statements. Thinking generally, but with truth. True we are called home when it's time; however, wouldn't you agree that we can ACT by caring carefully for our bodies, for example? Wouldn't it be fair to say that I have a determination in whether or not I die of lung cancer, for example, by choosing to smoke. Along those same lines, wouldn't it be fair to also say that in such a situation, because I did not act, I will be acted upon by maybe my life being shorter than it could have otherwise been or my death is brought on by something else than when I had acted? No blame. No shame. Just making observations about life. True again, that we are in God's care and this always takes "trump." It was these squirmy realizations that shifted my thinking. Initially that was very uncomfortable for me to consider, especially as I wasn't using my flow chart for just hypothetical situations any more, but real life situations...that were coming from MY real life. My experience in the past several years has lead me to recognize my miss ACTions and the connections with, therefore, being ACTED UPON.
I was "staying in the bath" and soaking up the cold water of what I was perceiving as a "NO" because it was serving me. I didn't want it to be "YES" for a million reasons. I didn't want to "get out of the bathtub." Over the years I am beginning to see what seemed like a million reasons to stay stuck is actually a handful of reasons that have (and will) continue to play out. The only difference is it may be different situations or people, but the same broken record of reasons. These reasons are a blessing in disguise to bring my attention to myself. More in the next post on this.
A Little More Life Experience
Since that day with my flow chart I have had almost 5 years to experiment with these ideas. Also during this time, I have received more life experience. Recently I attended a meeting to be trained to sponsor others in addiction recovery. As a sponsor, it is my blessing to be the mouthpiece and turn the sponsee to God as quickly as possible rather than supporting "staying in the bathtub." The training went something like this:
When I get a phone call from someone, listen with empathy. I am the one on the other side of the phone call any given day, so this is most often easy for me. :) Usually the call is for a crisis (often calling to report similar to "I'm COOOOLD") When the caller winds down a bit, ask if this is a surrender call. If so, help the caller see what is in his/her control.
Can you ACT?
Can you get out of the bathtub? Can you add some hot water? Is there any way you can have some control over the way you are feeling or what you are needing?
One reason we reach out to someone else as we seek recovery is that we cannot solve the situation with the same brain that created the problem (Einstein). Usually my question is met with "No because ____" and often because we are so close to "our stuff" we see what appears to be a wall or a roadblock with no way around. I have come to realize that when I get on my knees and ask God, He can show me the way around my false perceptions.
Sometimes there are things we can do. If I am feeling icky, often it's because I need to set a boundary (or change a boundary to be more firm). The feeling of anger, especially, alerts me to feeling intruded or pushed on. More on that in a second.
What about when you can't act?
...you really, truly, ligament can't act?
With life experience, I have come to realize there are things I can't control (control being an illusion in and of itself!). I can't control another person. I can't control their reaction. I truly thought I could. That if I behaved or didn't behave in certain ways...that if I looked or didn't look certain ways...that if I was gentle or tough...that if I cried enough or was happy enough or smart enough or ditzy enough....and on and on....I was living my life as if I could control others. That I could pull a magic string and make them behave certain ways or perceive me in certain ways.
But we can't. And the only way to peace is to surrender.
That peace will come despite what is swirling around us---situational or relationship.
I know that we can ACT in our relationships.
We can pray for hearts to be softened...both the other party and OUR OWN.
We can allow for others to have their own journey, even if it appears the road may be winding in a direction we wouldn't choose for a loved one (surrender).
Most importantly, we can focus on ourselves and TCOY. Even though that seems so backwards, it's true. When we are drowning ourselves, we cannot throw a rope to a drowning loved one. It was such a foreign thought to swim when my husband wasn't. I felt so much guilt initially to go on my "merry little way" and have an awesome day when he was struggling. That I was somehow abandoning him or our marriage. I didn't realize that my drowning wasn't going to get us to shore. It wasn't until I started swimming that we could step out of hurtful cycles and both head for shore. My rising was a call to him to join me on higher ground rather than both of us sinking.
By "swimming," I mean that we can plug into God and seek to deepen our relationship with Him. Just because a loved one is choosing ______ ---I don't care fill in the blank---does not mean that we are some how unable to access God. It's not about him or her. It's about ME and what I can take ACTion on. His/her relationship with God is not something I can have direct ACTion on (see above about strong endorsements for action nonetheless). I realized I needed to recover too. My true self had become clouded too. I need to be in the scriptures, on my knees, taking care of myself and my emotional, spiritual, and physical needs. That is ACTion. And really good action at that.
NOW, this doesn't mean that we have to be ACTED UPON either. We can set boundaries and keep ourselves safe. That can be tough to have to say something like:
"I will be moving out by set date if you _____ or don't _____." It has to be something we stick with and that can be challenging. Notice the focus of how I can ACT. I have no power over the ACTion of a loved one to do or not do something, but I can choose what I will be doing to stay in a safe place.
I recently heard something I LOVE. We learn at the speed of pain: when the pain of continuing is more than what we anticipate the pain of making a change will be, we are willing to try something new.
Now maybe for other readers not in situations of addiction where communication in a relationship is more healthy, it may be a more soft boundary that is met with understanding. "When you say ____, I feel ____. If you say that I will gently remind you."
I don't know what your "bathtubs" are or whether or not you can "get out." I don't know how you can "get out." I don't know why you have stayed "in." But God does and he will help you to KNOW. It is through the atonement that the way has been prepared for us to have those things that are needful for us to ACT. For our circumstances and hearts to be changed by our willingness through His grace.
God has created us to act.
As a Being of Creation, He seeks to train us about creation while in mortality.
Partner with Him to see TRUTH rather than perception.
Let Him show you where and how you can TRULY ACT in co-creating your life.