Give Up or Surrender?

I just about ran out of pluck.

And gumption.

And grit.

I’ve had 6 surgeries in the last year and a half, some bigger than others, but all required some rest and recovery time.  My muscles atrophied from all the sitting.  It’s harder for me to move around easily. Then I took a trip and came home worn out and sick with bronchitis.

After a long day of consciously feeling the fear of not getting better and staying weak and fragile, I realized I had a choice. I could give up or I could surrender to reality and begin the work to get better. Giving up looked easier.

Giving up means admitting defeat. It’s saying, “I have lost, there’s no sense in trying anymore.” Surrender means stopping the fight against forces you cannot control. Surrender allows you to reserve your energy for later. It’s the process of letting go. It does not mean giving up. (Teresa Bruni)

I surrendered. I asked–well, begged–God to help me find my pluck and gumption and grit again.

The difference between surrender and giving up is the difference between suffering (giving up) and being at peace (surrender). It is the difference between being lost and finding your way.  (Tim Custis)

I remembered what I hear in 12-step meetings:  Do the next right thing. Keep putting one foot in front of the other.

And from Anne Lamott:  Right foot, left foot, right foot, breathe.

Giving up is resistance to what is. Surrender is acceptance of what is. Giving up says “No” to life (you curl up in a ball on the bed). Surrender says “Yes” to life (you hold your arms wide open ready to receive). Giving up moves you away from God. Surrender moves you closer to God.  (Tim Custis)

I exercise in the pool again. I ride the exercise bike in the basement. I lead with my weaker leg when I go up the stairs from the basement. I bought some new shoes (Hey, girl’s gotta do what a girl’s gotta do) that work with my new orthotics so I can walk outside.

I’m not angry at God anymore. I had to feel the anger and tell God I was angry before I could let go of it.

There is no hope in giving up. It’s a dark, miserable place to be.

God and I are buddies again.

I have hope again.

And pluck.

And gumption.

And grit.

Thank God.

Published in: on April 21, 2015 at 12:03 pm  Comments (15)  
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Bigger, Faster, Better? Must I?

Must I update or upgrade or retrofit?  They all mean the same thing;  I looked them up in the dictionary: “one thing is replaced by something better, newer, more valuable, etc.” I’m usually okay with things, especially my electronic things, just as they are–Good Enough.  Bigger, faster, better, newer, shinier, cooler–it’s getting harder to keep up.

This morning, I allowed my iPhone 4 to upgrade itself to iOS-7.  I don’t think it’s required.  So why do it? Because my phone keeps telling me an upgrade is available.  Because the retired man I live with keeps asking me if I upgraded yet.

“It’s so cool,” he says.

“What’s so different?” I say.

“The way the icons look,” he says.  “Plus, they fixed some bugs and it will work better.”

“Okay, ” I sigh.  Maybe it is better.

And so I surrender to “progress” again.

On my deathbed, will I check for new upgrades for my phone or my computer?  Lord, I hope not.  Will I wonder what upgrades and new stuff my grandchildren will see?  Maybe.

They are young.  They have energy.  They are curious about and excited by anything new or different.  They will participate in the evolution of our culture and our globe.

As “Amma,” as grandmother, I help nurture each child’s unique true self.  I model (I hope) love, honesty, compassion.  I remind them we are all, everyone on this earth, God’s children and, therefore, we all have value. They will need those traits and that knowledge, no matter what new stuff appears.

Published in: on October 6, 2013 at 5:51 pm  Comments (6)  
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Time Out

Adaline is learning about Time Out.  She is 2 1/4 years old with a 6-week-old baby brother.  It took a few weeks for her to start acting out.  Normal temper tantrums now erupt and she throws stuff.  (Directed at her mom and dad, not Atticus, thankfully.)

They consulted Dr. Sears’s Discipline Book.  (Yes, that’s the guy in the Time magazine article.) In our family, we solve problems with information.  Knowledge=Control, you know.

Dr. Sears suggests one minute of Time Out per year of age.  At first, her parents felt so bad about punishing her that they hugged and babied her after the Time Out.  I gently suggested the Time Out might not work well that way, since in the end, Adaline got the attention she was looking for, sightly delayed.  It’s all going better now, I hear.

I’ve spent the last week recovering…slowly…from pneumonia.  Dr. Green told me to stay away from my grandchildren.

Dr. Green put me in Time Out.  Or maybe God did.

“You’d feel awful if you got one of them sick, you know,”  say my daughters and my friends.

I know they’re right, but I’m in withdrawal!

Dr Green told me today that people our age (what??) can take a month to get our energy back after pneumonia.  Great.

My daughters consulted and asked me to please slow down because they need me.  Odd to be on the other side of care-taking.

I feel mortal today.  Angry and disappointed with my body, once again.  My vulnerability shocks me.

It is clear to me that I must stop “doing”.  So I am taking these days of healing to assess how I balance my commitments and my energy.

I have a book called The Extreme Art of Self-CareIt is time to practice what I preach.

I want to my limited energy to matter.

Change is next on my agenda.  Damn it.

Are You in Control of Anything?

God will keep giving us opportunities to learn we are not in control.  I read that in a book this morning.  You know it’s true, don’t you?

I’m getting better about not-so-significant stuff, like lines and being on hold and the whole health insurance mess.  But the big stuff still gets me in the pit of my stomach.  You know that cold, dark, heavy spot in your gut when you know one of your kids is in trouble or really struggling?  (It is one of the few things that can kill my desire to eat.)  That’s when you know you’re not in control and are powerless.  What’s left at that point but anger and prayer and tears?

The retired man I live with struggles with this more than I do, I think.  Yesterday morning plugs in the wall of our house that faces the street stopped working.  Adaline was coming for the day and the tree lights wouldn’t go on.  To him, a major issue.  And, I have to say, a bit unnerving in a 55-year-old house.  No circuits were off so it was kind of weird.

The retired man I live with called an electrician.  They can send someone Monday.  (Yesterday was Thursday.)  So he called my brother who lives 3 hours away but knows a lot about electrician stuff.  For hours they tried to troubleshoot the wiring in that wall.  I told the retired man I live with that I would kill him if I had to call an ambulance for him while Adaline was at our house. He kept at it.

It’s not fixed.  We have no Christmas lights.  He is unhappy.  And not a whole lot of fun to be around.

God keeps giving us chances to learn we are not in control.

Published in: on December 16, 2011 at 8:19 pm  Comments (14)  
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Changed for the Better

(My friend, Lisa, asked for guest posts on her Cheap Therapy blog.  The prompt was “My life was changed for the better by…”  This is my response.)

God changed my life for the better.

I first got to know him (her?) personally at 12 Step meetings.  He likes the energy in those rooms where people who know him teach me how to live honestly and bravely.

Our 1st next-door neighbors talked me into trying Congregational United Church of Christ.  One of the first sermons I heard (from a woman minister!) included quotes from Anne Lamott’s Traveling MerciesI bought it the next day.  I wanted to know more from Pastor Julie at the UCC church.

I left a job I loved at Hospice in September, 2000.  I joined a Servant Leadership covenant group committed to exploring “call” together for 20 weeks.   I floundered.  I listened.  I prayed.

I listed my strengths and gifts.  I am a good listener.  That’s like saying “Bless her heart, she has such a sweet personality.”   Counseling?  That requires graduate school and I really didn’t want to take that GRE test or even go back to school.  One of my kids asked if I wanted to sit in a little room and listen to unhappy, screwed-up people all day.

Julie listened patiently to my confusion and frustration while we ate lunch at the old Southern Lights.  “What about spiritual direction?” she asked.  “What is it?” I said.  I don’t remember her answer.  I do remember the hair on my arms stood up and tingled.  Really.

“Check out Shalem,” she said.  I found them on the internet (here’s the link) and applied for the Spiritual Guidance Program a couple of months later.

At the 1st 10-day residential session, I met Barb, another female UCC minister.  She was funny and irreverent (she even said bad words) and deeply spiritual.  I had a friend and a role model.  I’m pretty sure God spoke through her, too.

I believe we are surrounded and supported always by a loving Higher Power.  He (?) sounds a lot like Julie and Barb and Mark and Lisa and Susan and Mike and Audra and so many others.

I help people tell and interpret their sacred stories.  We each have one.

“And what do you do?” someone kindly asks.  I groan and then God and I laugh.

Broken Body, Healing Spirit

Have you seen the commercial for a rheumatoid arthritis drug that talks about the life you have and the life you want to live?  It is shrewd marketing.  Inject this powerful drug and you can do anything.

The hidden cost of chronic illness, because pain and fatigue are invisible, is that I pretend to be living the life I want to live rather than being honest about the life I am living.  As Mary C. Earle writes in her book, Broken Body, Healing Spirit, there are sometimes two people living inside me and one is a liar.

What fear or perceived defect do you hide from the world?

Have you had the flu or bad allergies and gone to work anyway?  Do you have back pain?  Grief?  Migraines?  Fatigue?  Paralyzing anxiety?  Fear of what others will think?  Are you in recovery from addiction?  Or unsettled by the signs and symptoms of getting older?

Substitute your secret for “illness” as you read this quote from Broken Body, Healing Spirit (italics mine):

…a body that has been overwhelmed by illness is also a body where life dwells.  Disruptive, distressing, and acutely confusing, illness calls us to a deepening awareness of the wonder of the body, an awareness that we did not bring ourselves into being, and that it is through our embodied life that we encounter the presence of God…

Through illness, the embodied nature of our lives grabs our attention, and forces us to befriend the very flesh we thought betrayed us.  The body that we had taken for granted turns out to be a rich and varied text, full of layers of meaning and symbol.

Always, it comes back to powerlessness vs. control.  And I most want to control what I fear.  Until I have faith and trust, I will be afraid.  And I will miss a lot of fun stuff.

My husband has a big, yellow BMW motorcycle.  He rode it cross-country and back, alone.  He wants me to ride with him.  Once, I said yes; we rode around the neighborhood on quiet residential streets with no real traffic.   I trust my husband.  I know he would never deliberately hurt me.  All I could see from that rear perch was my body shattered into painful pieces.

New experiences are fun and invigorating for me–teaching a class, being in Paris alone for 5 days, going on a week-long silent retreat.  For Mike, riding the motorcycle is a form of meditation.  For me, it is like white-water rafting or parachuting.

I’ve lived with chronic illness for over 20 years.  Rarely have I said “I can’t”.  I can usually find adaptations and compromises that let me do most anything.  I want to be the free spirit that sees a lovely day and says “Let’s ride!”

I think it could be a prayer–“Your will, not mine be done.”

Sledgehammer Therapy

My husband destroyed an expensive new Cuisinart coffee maker with a built-in bean-grinder.

He used a sledgehammer.

In the driveway.

(He said I could write about it.)

Afterward, he said he felt great–better than he’d felt in weeks.  No wonder he says counseling is a waste of time.  Sledgehammers work much faster.

I had several options for responding.  I could have gotten really angry.  I could have been scared.  I could have laughed.  I chose to say very little and keep on with my day.  I knew something else was bothering him, although the fancy, complicated coffee maker didn’t work right.  (I suggested operator error…once.)

I know my husband.  We’ve been married 36 years.  I am not afraid of him.  He is a gentle, caring man who only wants to love his family and protect us from any distress.  Nobody gets to do that.  And it frustrates him.

I’ve learned to look at HALT ( Hungry, Angry, Lonely, Tired) when life is making me crazy. 

Hungry?  I am rarely hungry, but sometimes I don’t choose healthy foods.  That doesn’t help me cope.

Angry?  I usually stuff anger, so it’s important for me to dig around a bit in my feelings.  For my husband, anger sometimes masks other feelings like fear and sadness.

Lonely?  I need a lot of alone time, so I don’t get lonely much.  I turn this question upside down and ask, have I been around people too much?

Tired?  I need a lot of sleep.  I’m at my best after 8-9 hours.  (That means I don’t get much accomplished after dinner.)

I’m kind of jealous of my husband’s sledge hammer episode.  He got rid of a lot of intense feelings, I think.

Anyone need to borrow the sledgehammer?

Aunt Nadine and Uncle Phil (Part II)

They came. They really, really hugged us.  Adaline made them smile and laugh and they were captivated.

We had two evenings and one whole day of joy and love and laughter. Then Uncle Phil got sick and died.

They had planned to leave Friday to drive home. Aunt Nadine and her son left Friday, instead, and they flew. Uncle Phil didn’t like to fly.

That’s the short version of this story. Of course there’s much more:

They came Monday evening and were fine when we went to bed Tuesday night.  Wednesday morning my aunt couldn’t wake my uncle so we called 911. After a long time in the ER, he went to ICU on a ventilator.  They said it was pneumonia and septic shock.  We took my aunt back to our house to sleep.

The ICU nurse called us at 2:30 Thursday morning to come in immediately. The nurse asked about whether to start CPR if he needed it because they thought his heart would stop soon.  My aunt said no and said it was okay to disconnect everything.  After a couple of breaths, he died.  He was 89 and she is 88.

Aunt Nadine and Uncle Phil met in kindergarten.  They were married 68 years and still really liked and loved each other.  Every time I think about her walking into the house they lived in for more than 50 years and sleeping in their bed alone, my heart hurts for her.

Aunt Nadine  doesn’t believe in asking God for specific things, so I ask that you pray for her to feel God’s presence. I hope that will lessen her pain.

I Failed Facebook

For a long time,  I thought Facebook was silly and useless and a potential time-sucker.  Even though people I respect and like have Facebook pages.

I had lunch with Susan and Beth a week ago.  They worked on me and wore me down.  I decided to try Facebook.  My daughter said, “It’s not rocket science, Mom.”

The first day it was fine.  No problem signing up and I started to send out friend requests.  I went to bed, proud of myself.

The next day, I got a pop-up telling me I used an invalid email address to login.  I tried my other one.  Same response.  I tried everything on the Facebook Help page about login.  No luck.  Then I tried to find a way to contact Facebook.  I don’t think they want to hear from us.

I tried to log in for a whole day and used all the words I’ve banished from everyone’s vocabulary (at least in front of Adaline).  I gave up and went to bed.

Next morning, our internet connection didn’t work.  Then it did, but I still couldn’t get to my Facebook page.  (I could see it if I logged in to my daughter’s page.)  And I was getting emails confirming friend requests.  I had friends, but no way to get to my Facebook page.  The internet connection stopped working again.

I kept wondering what my “friends” would think.

Today I admitted I failed.  I started over.

I am now Robin Reaugh Dorko on Facebook.  If you search for Robin Dorko, I think you’ll find her, but she still can’t get to that page.  So go to Robin Reaugh Dorko instead.  My girls said this way my old boyfriends could find me easier.  Great.

More than once in the last few years, I’ve said I’m done upgrading and learning new computer stuff.   And then I upgrade or learn something new.  If Aunt Nadine and Uncle Phil can learn to email in their 80’s, I guess I can keep whining and then surrendering to progress.  Next is my iPod.

Want to be my friend?

Published in: on September 20, 2010 at 9:33 am  Comments (4)  
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Words on the blackboard behind my eyes

Acceptance            Approval           Compassion         Boundaries

Permission         Pity              Blame          Anger

Forgiveness          Empathy        Mercy          Grace         Faith

My granddaughter’s extended family gathered last Sunday to celebrate her baptism.   At lunch were 15 adoring adults and one 5-month-old baby.  Each of has our own story of love and angst and worry and joy in relation to each other.

Do love and compassion help with unacceptable behavior?  Or do they simply enable and excuse?  When is confrontation appropriate and when are surrender and acceptance the only real answer?  Where do I find empathy when I can’t imagine myself in his shoes?  Who gave her permission to act this way?

Last spring, I joined a Lenten study group on forgiveness. We didn’t come up with any easy answers for these very difficult questions.  We talked about pride, sisters and brothers, God’s mercy and grace, parents and children, drugs and alcohol, mental illness, and anger.  We wondered about personal responsibility and setting boundaries to protect our own souls.

“Would you rather be right or happy?” ask my wise friends.  “Can’t I be both?” I ask.

Peace comes with acceptance for me.  Acceptance doesn’t usually come easily.  I don’t often surrender to reality gracefully, not at first.  Anger and frustration no longer energize me.  They make me tired.  And not like myself much.  So I pray for willingness. Sometimes I pray for the willingness to be willing (think about that–it will make sense).

One of my life goals is to live as the child of God I was created to be.  I wish it could be easier.  But “I’m workin’ on it“.