“After a certain point it is necessary to let go of all outside help (or contact) and focus on one’s own resourcefulness.” Joan Anderson
Once a woman escapes she should never call home. I had planned not to do so and then realized that the hotel computer was available for my use. And so, to be nice, I emailed my husband that we had arrived safely, gave him details of our trip complete with all the bumps and starts, wished him well for the next 2 weeks and sealed it with a kiss.
Two days later he answers. “I won’t bother telling you what’s going on here,” he offered. “Just know that I am all right.”
It wasn’t really him that I was worried about–I was much more concerned with our sons, one of whom is getting a divorce and the other, looking for a new job.
How stupid of me to invite intrusion—to open the door I had so completely shut and as a result, be left with anxiety and hours of obsessing over myriad possibilities.
A woman only needs to sense a taste of trouble and her mind begins to embellish. At first angry that he would suggest something being awry, I refused to answer and get involved in any drama that I had no way of solving. But it is such a “woman thing” that we feel so overly important—as if only we can solve the issues in the family or life.
Knowing how many women have ruined their retreats by calling home, I hightailed it to the Abbey, huddled into the Quiet Corner, began to breathe and waited for a spirit of goodwill to envelope me. Someone in the choir was singing an ancient hymn… Stoop to my weakness, mighty as thou art … words I needed to hear… and it was then that I could give over my weaknesses… such qualities as fear, anxiety, guilt, power, control– to name a few.
So I forced myself to give it to God and that led to my giving more over than I ever thought possible. Each morning before breakfast I set out for the Abbey and breathed my way toward peace of mind. Staring at the flickering candles and feeling sheltered from the roaring winds outside the stained glass windows, I began to come to some truth. It occurred to me that my grown sons, whom I obsess over, have been out of the house and therefore my tutelage for 20 years. I have not had any power over them during that length of time and now that they are facing major life transitions why would I think I had power over their circumstances now? I could only honor and have faith in what I know of them—that they possess integrity, truth, strength, a modicum of wisdom—that they are loving and deserve love in return—that in fact they have been launched and only life experience would do the rest of the job of forming their personas.
“After all,” a friend said, “raising a child is the only relationship that if you do it right it ends in separation.”
With that truth now clearly imprinted in my heart I stood up, lit a candle for each of them, released any control I thought I had, and left the abbey a changed woman. Each day there after I went back, lit two more candles and walked away, leaving my self-inflicted burdens behind.
Questions To Ponder:
Do you overrate your importance in your family’s life? What part of your role is outlived? How can you begin to release your power and control over others to free yourself up to become the elder…the one who knows but does not act or teach?
In what circumstances can you begin to stop inviting intrusion and seek seclusion?
I am re-reading the days of this wonderful online retreat … and, remembered just last week getting caught up for a few hours of needing and wanting a Hallmark Christmas. It took me off my center and my path for a period of time, long enough to recognize the pain of old dysfunctional behavior and the desire to return to self.
I appreciated your daily trips to the Abbey Joan and your comment: “Each day there after I went back, lit two more candles and walked away, leaving my self-inflicted burdens behind.” Thank you.
Though not in a traditional chapel context, I pondered today why I might not “light a candle” for those 4 or 5 family members, so I might live and let live. Come to think of it,…they aren’t screaming for help so much as I just want to be in the thick of it: a yearning for when someone fell and needed stitches and you rushed to the ER holding the wound with a washcloth. Oh how wonderful it was to be needed in that way. Now we crones (haha) have new jobs.
Then there is that adorable quote that says, “Dear Lord, could you please put your arm around my shoulders and your hand over my mouth?”
I love this retreat and love the blog. Thanks again to everyone.
Joan and blogging friends,
I treasurer all the comments, advice and words of wisdom, but I have learned to do one thing, K.M.S. !
Keep Mouth Shut
I was so happy for you when I read about your aha moment with your sons. To understand the pressure you put upon yourself to make everything right for someone else is a powerful insight. You can think clearer in detachment from situations, the hard part is not to get sucked in again when you return.
I’m sure you are leading the way for many women in the same situation to look at their own actions towards their grown children.
As for being the silent elder I am practicing that one! Recently on commenting on whether my granddaughter needed a cardigan on my daughter replied kindly but firmly “mum you’ve been so good recently I’ve hardly had to say anything to you for ages” That put me in my place and I had to smile.
This day’s reflection touches my heart and soul deeply, I am also stuuggling with the struggles of my 2 adult sons. One who is recovering from a tragic car accident, subsequent back surgery and loss of job. The other son and wife who have been pushing me out of their life: too busy to receive phone calls or visits, “dishing” out disrespect and name calling because I do not visit my grandson as often as they feel appropriate, however, they have also totally separated from my husband. I read the early retreat days on this sunny winter’s morn and reflected deeply on exactly what you wrote Joan, Then I read this day and it reinforced my belief in myself, my values and my need to work on detachment in love as Melody Beatty directs in her codependence books. thank you this has been my day for serendipity. Much love
Family members have a way of making me feel guilty for not helping them when they need it. What I am doing, or in some cases…not doing, is never as important as the crisis they find themselves in. My dear Idaho friend said to me once, that the best thing she ever did for her children was to move away from them and North Carolina, her birthplace and home. Then one day, her son called to say his car had broken down. She said in her wonderful southern accent, “Honey, if you wait a few days, I might be able to pick you up!” What a hoot. Yes, I stubbornly work at making my 29, 27, and 23 year old self sufficient. I’m flattered that they usually like me, but really they don’t show that they care about what’s important to me, IF it inconveniences them. I think I’ll add an afternoon walk today. That will make me feel good, and give me time to think before I make dinner. Thank you Joan and all of you for this time. I’d like to make you all a cup of tea and some chocolate chip cookies. 🙂
Good morning sister retreaters. I don’t have children, but a partner, extended family and large circle of friends. I have been the one who keeps them all together (until now I could never have admited that). To me it was just me helping them all out, being there, holding them up when needed, making it all right so they didn’t struggle so much. TA-DA, that is changing and somewhat outlived. I have been working on just saying “no” or not even offering to making it right unless asked. Me the biggest care taking worrier, I am focussing on me and what I need to be that better woman. It is hard sometimes, but I am just beginning to see, as you have stated Joan, what makes me think I have the power to make it right. As I reflect and pray in the mornings, I am releasing myself. I know God is with me and it doesn’t hurt to have a some guardian angels either.
Just imagine and open yourself….
How many times I have fought this same issue over the years?? You, who knows me so very well, have heard my statement on the subject of my adult children…”I GAVE them life, I didn’t Lend it to them”. Yet it has been with MUCH resistance (on my part) they have come into their own adulthood. They became adults by overcoming their own trials and tribulations. I am sure they started looking both ways prior to crossing a street buy having a close call, thinking “Hey, I almost got hit !!” and not my constant reminder of looking both ways. Life lessons are so much deeper than conversations. After all, this is where by wisdom has come from….
I look back and remind myself of the days when I thought neither man nor beast could survive without my awares, control and guidence. Who ever told me I was the “all” of any given situation was in error.
Family, we are part of a unit. When the unit is not at 100% the other parts contribute to keep all parts running as smoothly as possible..once the missing part returns, it is repaired, thus prepared to hold up it’s own responsibilities…Nowhere does it say the absent unit must fill in for itself while in for repair.
Going with your Repair, regenerate, etc…there is a lesson here. While in the repair shop, stay there (in mind and body)until the repair is complete.
Oh my what words of wisdom from you.They come as I planned a surprise birthday for my husband whereby two boys and father would meet in Chicago and go to the Packers game. Well there was snow and O’Hare was opened and closed but somehow by letting it goo and thinking for the best their flights all made it in and the party began.I had the idea but it was inthe hands of others to make it work.
Hope you are all mended,Julie
Good morning fellow retreaters.
Quite the profound question to ponder today Joan. But one of the most important I believe, for self actualization. And at the same time, one of the most difficult barriers in our journey.
Being a woman, these two competing tides; our “mothering” instinct and our journey to self, frequently come crashing into shore, the fury of their disparate powers creating a storm of anxiety and fear.
Thankfully, the “tools of recovery” abound if we have the courage to open our hearts and minds; therapy, retreat, silence/seclusion, the power of the written word, and finally, this ever widening online circle- full of wisdom, pain, hope, and healing.
So “just for today” I will consciously “let go and let God” as I embrace the age old Serenity Prayer:
God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference….
As they say in Alanon I didn’t cause it, I can’t control it, I can’t cure it.
Hi Joan-I emailed you last summer..in the process of ending a 30 year marriage. You urged me to come to a retreat, but its not in the cards right now. I HAD to comment on your 3 C’s…the most liberating, freeing words ever uttered!. My husband is an alcoholic and those words, at my first AlAnon meeting set me on my own path of recovery! As to children, we must give them gift of their own lives, and by doing that, it forces us to live OUR own lives. I am doing well…and hope you are as well.Susie
In nurturing, supporting, providing… for family, I am really just finding ways to run away from myself. I have made myself very unhappy and it’s time for change.
Hallelujah! I can give to others and indeed I want to, but no longer at my expense.That being said I now pray daily for the trust in those individuals that I care too much about and and continually will them the capacity to use their own good qualities and grit to get through–isn’t that what we are doing with ourselves?