Who Knows Best?
Others do not know what’s best for us.
We do not know what’s best for others.
It is our job to determine what’s best for ourselves. More so, we cannot control another so no matter what argument we might put up, people are determined to follow the path they believe they should. If there is something higher in your life perhaps that is included in the decision, but rarely do I know anyone who listens to one person and goes off on that path. What I do know if that spiritual and emotional growth can only come with help from others. We cannot live life alone.
“I know what you need.” . . . “I know what you should do.” . . . “Now listen, this is what I think you should be working on right now.”
These are audacious statements, beliefs that take us away from how we operate on a spiritual plane of life. Each of us is given the ability to be able to discern and detect our own path, on a daily basis. This is not always easy. We may have to struggle to reach that quiet, still place.
I was this person above for a long time. The one who gave advice. Wanted or unwanted I gave it. I fit in perfectly because I was a manager and I was hired to give this advice and expected others to take it. It was a lot of power; sometimes too much. However, ego wise it was satisfying. I remember a client calling me and asking what she should do about a certain situation. I really didn’t know the answer (it was more personal than business) and I started to say “I don’t know…” and she said it was OK that I didn’t. It shook me to my core. Was it OK? Not in my book. I believe I spent the next twenty minutes rambling onto her about what she should do – truthfully I had no idea. My ego needed to be needed.
It is indeed easy to look at someone whose life is a mess and have a clear logical notion of how they might fix it. However, their lives are not ours to determine. Though it might be clear to us that the alcoholic needs to quit drinking to save his/her relationship or career or the friend who constantly messes up love affairs needs act in a certain way in order to be happier and have more success in love, their timing is not ours to decide. Perhaps they (and by they I mean all of us, myself of course included) still need to fall deeper down, to meet more people, to take other paths, succeed and fail before they finally find what they find their own path to be.
One of the hardest things in life is to let other take responsibility for their own actions and suffer whatever repercussions might follow. I have gone through great lengths at the worst of my co-dependent times to take responsibility for others actions, to hide facts from others and to turn my life over to someone else so that they could have support and care 24/7. I almost went insane and it was no one’s fault but my own.
As I have suffered from depression, I have been on the precipice of an emotional ‘bottom’ at various times in my life but though perhaps hitting bottom would have saved me because I would have had to pick myself up, I’ve found ways at some of these times to stay steady enough to continue on acting in an unhealthy way. The true first step is, of course, the willingness to get help. As we all know, no one can make you stop drinking, no one can fix your sadness and so on. Only we know when/if things are best for us.
When I finally decided I needed help, I listened to everyone, not just one person, and I put my life in a higher power’s hands. That doesn’t necessarily mean God, it means it couldn’t be an action based on my own thoughts because when I’m depressed I cannot take care of myself as I need to. I need to be of service, helping others while at the same time I need to put myself and my son first before anyone else and I need to eliminate toxicity from my life. As someone in Al-Anon, toxic people can be alluring because we want to fix them. And yes, they sort of want to be fixed but not every day. One day yes, the other no. It’s not a roller coaster ride I’m willing to take anymore. I feel like single parenthood is enough of a challenge that managing anyone elses life is out of my bounds and believe me, ‘managing’ a 7 year old’s life is out of my bounds too. As he gets older I see my influence is strong but he has his own very strong ideas. For this I am grateful.
I just watched a movie “Red Dragon”, a prequel to “Silence of the Lambs”, which focused on a different killer than Hannibal Lecter. A blind woman had started to date this killer and his behavior was very erratic (go figure!). She had dinner with a friend whom she spilled all to and the friend wisely suggested that if this man was behaving in such an erratic manner perhaps it might be best for her to put an end to the relationship before it got too out of hand. Good advice, right? Nope, not for this woman. She of course, said “No, I cannot leave him, I think I love him,” even though she’d been complaining about him all night. Later of course, she was drugged and kidnapped and almost died in a fire he set at his house. So, we cannot use logic nor can we see the forest for the trees. We are blind to what we need until we are in the fire. We are deaf to what others say until we see that where right all along.
A lot of women are natural caretakers and they want to offer help. Men like to offer suggestions to fix things. We are all stepping on one another to try and get a positive response when what many people want is a good listener and someone to give them a hug. Someone who nods and says they understand and doesn’t judge. Someone who comes back even after you’ve revealed the thing you’re most ashamed of. That’s love, that’s real and that’s what I believe most of us seek.
In Al-Anon, I have three sponsees whom I take through the twelve steps and whom I speak to on a regular basis when they need guidance. My conversations with them are not my advice but my experience, strength and hope. I can guide them to a step that might help or tell them something from my life that might give them information but I do not give direct advice unless asked. We share our stories and through that we grow and rid ourselves of shame and gain freedom so we can prosper as best we can on any given day.
To trust ourselves to be able to discover – through that same imperfect process of struggle, trial, and error – is a great gift we can give ourselves. We can only, in my opinion, trust ourselves when we are completely honest; share from the heart and lift the shame by revealing ourselves in front of our fellows. We get feedback, we have been heard and there is no judgment. About 13 years ago when I was suffering greatly over the loss of a relationship I told my story warts and all, every bad thing I had done but it wasn’t until I stopped focusing on the other person and their faults that I started getting some recovery. I was avoiding the issue I could control – me. We reject the notion that we need to work on ourselves in favor of “If that person only did this I would be happy.” Eventually everyone got bored of hearing about the other person, myself included. They wanted to hear MY story and I needed to tell it and focus on myself to recover and rebuild me. It was hard work and it worked. A lot of tears were shed and I made some of the best friends I will ever have.
Today, I will remember that we are each given the gift of being able to discover what is best for ourselves. I do believe that when enough people tell you the same thing; ie: give the same advice, it is a method of having you listen. Whether we are in our ego or stuck in pride or whatever negative emotion prevents us from hearing, that is something we will suffer the repercussions of – we are alone in our decisions but we are together in trying to decipher the right and most healthy path to take. Listen, look and wait for answers. As they say, “Don’t just do something, sit there.” Be still until all is clear and you are coming from the highest place you can. It is hard to be still but it is healthy and positive. I guarantee you, no story you can tell a friend or a fellow or a stranger in a twelve step program isn’t one they or someone they know can relate to. We’re all flawed and I’d like to hope we’re all trying to recover from life’s difficulties and to be the best we can be. It’s not a job to do alone. Our minds got us into the problems in the first place – that same mind cannot get us out!