Turning it Over in 2012 Revisited

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Huntington Beach, Huntington Reservation, Bay Village, Ohio

Huntington Beach, Huntington Reservation, Bay Village, Ohio

ing o One Republic’s “Preacher”

Rather than list my goals for the coming year, I thought I’d reflect on the most important lesson I learned this year.

I have long envied some of my friends, strong in their faith, who are able to weather the most difficult storms in life with grace, strength, and optimism.  When I offer my sympathies they respond with a smile and say they have “turned it over” to their Higher Power.  They possess a certain peace that I can only dream of.

“How do you do that?” I ask them.

“Do what?”

“Believe?”

They smile.  “You just have to have faith.”  And they do.  Have faith, that is.

The problem is: mine is not so strong.  It’s riddled with holes.  It has never been easy for me to believe.  I guess that’s why it’s a central theme in my novels.  I’m still trying to work it out.  I can say “I believe” out loud.  I can say it in my head.  All the while, the rest of my thoughts are whispering, “Yeah, right.”

That thought is there, and there is no sense denying it.

So my friends say, “That’s what faith is, deciding to believe without proof.”

I try it.  Inside my head, I say, “Okay, I’m deciding to believe now.”  I wait for my worries about the future or my guilt over past mistakes to disappear.  No dice.  The relief doesn’t come.  My mind is an amazing thing.  It sees right through me.

So I’ve worried, and I’ve fretted, and I’ve run around, making myself sick trying to fix, manage and control my life and the lives of the people around me.  We are a neurotic bunch, so there is always something in desperate need of repair.  And of course,  I usually figure out a way to make the problem my fault to begin with.  This makes it MY RESPONSIBILITY to fix it.  And then, of course, if I can’t, I’m a failure.  Unfortunately, for me this leads to self-destructive thoughts and tendencies.

This past year has been rough for my family and me, but my attitude was different…  I wanted those self-destructive thoughts and tendencies gone, and I became willing to do whatever I had to do to make that happen.  Pain is a strong motivator.  Each of us has a different threshold for how much pain we are willing to endure before we are willing to change.  I reached my threshold this year.  That coupled with friendships forged with people who were living their lives at peace, even under difficult circumstances, gave me hope that I could to.

So the next time I called a friend and started to go on and on about what was wrong, and how I was trying to fix it, and how I was worried the world was about to cave in.  I really listened to her response.  She asked me, “So what can you really control here?”

I shrugged then mumbled, “My own actions.”  We’d been over this, but I didn’t like it.  I wanted the world to behave the way I thought it should.

“Right,” she said.

“Yes, but they should—“

“And how well is that working for you?  You thinking you know how everybody else should act?”

I sighed.  I didn’t have to tell her.  She knew.

“It’s none of your business what other people do, think, or say,” she reminded me.  “You can’t control it anyway.  You just make sure you do the next right thing and—“

“Turn the rest of it over.”

“Right.”

And something finally clicked.  I may not have been ready to turn my worries over to a God I didn’t understand, but I was ready to admit I was powerless over other people, places and things that were causing me grief.  The only logical thing to do then was surrender.   It wasn’t so much a “surrendering to” any particular Higher Power as it was a “stepping back from” the part of the problem that didn’t belong to me.  I had to let that part go.

It takes practice.  And at the rate life seems to be throwing curve balls my way, I get a lot of practice.  Each new problem presents an opportunity for me to identify what I can control and what I can’t and turn the rest of it over.  I’m not quite sure yet what or who I’m turning it over to, but I have hope that if I resist the urge to insert my own will into the mess, maybe the will of someone higher than me will have a chance to make things right.

So I give praying for that a try.  It helps.

Funny—when I stop worrying about everyone else and concentrate on my own actions, my world becomes infinitely less complex and considerably more…peaceful.

Happy New Year.

 

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