Saturday, May 28, 2011


In one of Pearl Buck's autobiographies she describes how she felt after she and her family ran away from China during the revolution.  She had lived there all her life as the child of missionaries and then the wife of a missionary, but during the revolution all the Caucasians had to leave.  She and her family ran to Japan where the kind people loaned them a place to live since all they left with were the clothes they were wearing.  She said that suddenly her life was radically and enjoyably simplified. 

Each morning she rolled up their sleeping pads, made breakfast over a charcoal brazier in the one pot they had, ate, washed the pot, swept the floor and then the rest of the day was hers to do with as she wanted.  She wrote a whole chapter about the joyful freedom she felt while they were in Japan and before they began accumulating possessions again.  It was not that she didn't feel the loss of everything they had, but that the sharp pain of that loss only lasted a short time before the lightness and freedom of simplicity set in.

This story comes to mind because I have friends in the Joplin, Missouri, area who survived the big tornado there but lost pretty much everything.  I am hoping they will have the same experience of lightness and freedom of simplicity.  I've experienced this myself after the fire we had in 2000 ruined pretty much everything we had.  Of course at first I was traumatized and very sad.  But soon I felt the freedom that the lack of possessions gave me.  Nothing to dust, wash, rearrange, pick up, put away, etc.  I loved it.  I still have empty drawers in my house where I just didn't replace things.  Somehow, however, I manage to accumulate "stuff" and when I get too much of it, I just give it away so I can keep the freedom of simplicity.

Serenity Project
I've decided to reinstate the Serenity Project I started a long time ago but didn't continue.  My idea was to record my efforts to increase the serenity in my life, but I wandered away from the goal as I sometimes do.  Now that I'm going to try again to do the project,  I had the idea of starting a whole new blog for it, but in the interests of simplicity and serenity, I think I will just stick with adding it to my regular posts. 

Day 1:  The reading for today in my "Courage to Change" book was about taking responsibility for my problems instead of perceiving people, places or things outside myself as the reason for the problem and blaming and complaining.  This was one of my first lessons in recovery.  At that time I was extremely angry and saw myself as a powerless victim of others and of fate.  My dear sponsor just gently pointed out ways I could solve those problems without having to try to make other people do something different or try to force solutions over and over that were not working.

At first I thought she was trying to tell me that all my problems were my own fault, and I just got angrier because I knew that was wrong.  But she kept reassuring me that it wasn't about whose fault it was, but it was about me taking responsibility for myself and for solving my own problems.  This was not a concept I had ever heard of or been taught about so I was a slow learner and I still have to be reminded.  But the concept has given me immeasurable peace of mind and serenity.  What ever the problem is, I can ask God (and myself), what can I do about this today?  Then I can take that action - whatever it is - and forget about the problem for the day. 

A couple of examples:  During the past few years I've been plagued with sudden spells of exhaustion where I sleep many hours for several days.  It's annoying and embarrassing and other people sometimes have been upset with me because I suddenly have to cancel plans.  My best advisers have pointed out that since my body and psyche are healing from a tremendous trauma followed by the trauma of several major surgeries, that I may just need to accept my sudden need for long periods of rest.  But I've resisted, trying to regulate and anticipate so that I have some control over it.  It seemed to me that this problem was lasting longer than it should.   Finally, I arrived at acceptance - which consists of me asking God and myself - "What can I do about this today?"  The answer varies from day to day. Sometimes I try to stay up - drink some coffee, exercise or whatever - but if nothing works, I go to bed and rest - with peace of mind.  For the last couple of days, I have mostly just rested - with serenity.

Another example:  I am usually unhappy in some way or another about the care my disabled daughter receives from her caregivers.  Right now she is in pretty good health and is fairly happy.  However, much of what is supposed to be provided for her just doesn't happen.  In the past, I would have spent days and days angry and griping incessantly to anyone who would listen.  If I could do these things for her myself, I would do it, but I am unable.  I can't say that I never get upset because I frequently do.  But my upset only lasts until I remember that I'm responsible for solving my own problems.  So, I ask God and myself, "What can I do about this today?"  Usually there's something I can do.  Most recently, her caregivers were supposed to take her for a regular medical appointment, but skipped many of them.  So, I just began reminding them about the appointment on the morning of the appointment, plus going there myself from time to time.  I don't think they were crazy about these reminders, however, eventually, they began taking her to her appointments on a regular basis. Serenity!

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