I have been stuck.
I have been struggling about what to write for this post, wanting so much to do it “right”.
I have been wanting to come up with a catchy title so people will read it and find hope, and wanting so much to post something that will reach people. I have been wanting to work my step 12 in a way that will help others find the healing that I have found.
I have started and stopped at least four or five different articles for you to read, and each time I just couldn’t get them right, I couldn’t find the main idea, I couldn’t organize my thoughts in a way that made any sense.
In the early days of recovery my trauma would make itself known in loud explosions of yelling, tears, complete withdrawal, or shutdown. As I have grown in my recovery and in my ability to speak up and use my voice, I haven’t needed to yell or break down in tears. (At least, not as much. I am still human, after all.)
I am constantly learning new things about myself as I work my program, and recently I have started recognizing that when I have moments of trauma I don’t go into fight or flight mode, I freeze. I become immobilized and I get stuck.
This immobilization isn’t a new response at all, but my awareness of it is. So, when I put it together that I was stuck about writing I started to get curious and ask myself why.
That’s when I realized that I have been holding on to fear.
In this case, fear of not “doing it right”. Fear of not being good enough, not being capable enough. Fear of failing, letting you all down.
I never saw myself as a fearful person, but as I become more willing to look at motivations behind my actions I am discovering that fear propels many of my choices.
When I was willing to see the fear I could do something about it.
For me, that something is surrender.
As I have been attending meetings, working my steps, going to qualified therapy, and working with a sponsor, this concept of surrender has come up constantly. While it may seem counterintuitive, the ability to surrender is freeing.
Surrender is not giving up, it is letting go of what is not yours to control.
So, I took some time to write about what I was feeling. With pen on paper I was able to write out what I was afraid of. When those words are there looking back at me it seems so much easier to see what is not mine.
I took those fears to my Higher Power, and asked Him to take them, and replace my fears with faith that He can work through me.
I then made a phone call to another woman in recovery, and shared out loud what my fears were, and that I was choosing to give them to God.
I took that paper I wrote my fears on (which I used in my prayer and in my phone call, as it helps me remember all the pieces I want to surrender) and I put it in my surrender box. I have heard others refer to this as their “God jar”.
Once they go in that box it is a signal to my brain that I can let go of it and let my God take it.
When I choose to surrender I am choosing to let go of what is binding me.
My fears of not being good enough were keeping me chained, bound, and immobilized. When I chose to give those fears to God they lost their power over me. I was no longer held captive by them because I spoke them out loud and chose to let them go.
That doesn’t mean I will suddenly deliver the perfect post for you to read, but now I can start. Now I can move, and that gives my Higher Power the ability to steer me where He wants me to go.
He can’t steer if I’m not moving.
So, in the spirit of moving, here are some thoughts on an experience I had recently.
This past weekend I was on a hike with my family. We had gone to explore a slot canyon, and had an incredible time. We left for the hike pretty late in the afternoon, and by the time we started back the sun was on its way down.
We knew we had to get back before we lost all the light so our return trip was more rushed. There were some muddy spots on the floor of the canyon that were hard to avoid, and on our trip back through all three of my children had stepped in the mud. Some intentionally (that’s what happens when a four year old finds mud), and some by accident.
After the mud patch there was still about a mile and a half before we got to the car. While two of the children were able to accept the muddy conditions and keep going, one of my daughters was having a difficult time. She was also the daughter that refused to eat a snack before we set out on the hike.
We were in a desolate location, it was getting darker, and the temperature was starting to drop. Her feet, ankles, and most of her calves were covered in mud that was starting to dry and get stiff and uncomfortable on her skin. She was hungry, cold, tired, uncomfortable, and though she didn’t say it, probably a little scared.
And she had no problem letting all of us know, very loudly, exactly how she was feeling.
I held her hand as we walked and tried every trick in my parenting arsenal to help her out. I tried to get her to focus on the goal, and how good it would feel to be back at the car. I tried to help her look at all the positives about our situation. I tried singing her songs that bring her comfort. (She shot that one down before I could get two words out of my mouth!) I tried to distract her with games or conversation.
Nothing could get her to focus on anything but how miserable and uncomfortable she was in that moment. She was stuck in misery and couldn’t get out.
So I stopped trying to change what she was feeling.
I let her know that I loved her and that if she needed to feel sad that was okay. I would just be with her and hold her hand while she was feeling sad.
I told her it was okay to feel sad for as long as she needed. She stopped fighting me and my attempts to “fix” the situation, which freed up more of her energy to focus on moving.
As her mother, I knew the patch of misery wouldn’t last forever. Though she didn’t know it, I knew she’d feel joy again.
I knew once we got back to the car we could clean off the mud, and get her warm, fed, and comfortable. I knew we were in a temporary situation, and that as long as she kept going she would be okay.
Even though she was spent, she kept putting one foot in front of the other. Even though all she could see was darkness, and cold, and hunger, she kept going.
And sometimes that’s what we need to do too. Sometimes we need to recognize that we are in a dark, uncomfortable place and we are feeling sad and scared.
Sometimes we don’t need to change our attitude or distract ourselves with the promise of something better, sometimes we just need to feel the heaviness of where we are.
Unlike my daughter, I have often held back and not admitted to myself or others that I am sad, scared, and in a difficult place. My energy is focused on pretending everything is okay, which doesn’t leave me much energy to keep moving my feet.
When I give myself permission to feel the difficult things, I have the energy to keep moving and pass through them.
I know that my Higher Power has consistently given me the space to feel whatever I need to feel. He knows my patch of misery won’t last forever, and that in just a bit more there’s a warm car with food, blankets, and towels to clean off the caked on mud. He’s there holding my hand the whole way.
When I feel what I need to feel it helps me get unstuck. I might be miserable, but I’m moving. I have the energy to keep putting one foot in front of the other, which allows me to get to a warm, safe place.
So, how do I get unstuck?
I give myself space to feel the misery rather than deny that it’s there. That gives me the ability to focus my energies on moving my feet.
I choose to be curious about why I’m not moving, and surrender what is keeping me bound. There is exhilarating freedom in breaking those chains.